Volunteer Stories…

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Take a look at some of our Volunteer Stories.

If you are interested in finding out more information about any of the projects please contact 01639 631246 or email info@nptcvs.org.uk

Sophie Phillips' StoryHolly's StoryCeri's StoryStephen Davies' StoryAmy's StoryAndrew Webber's StoryTom Pallett's StoryGwirVol Case Study Volunteering Interview: KatieGwirVol Case Study Volunteering Interview: AlexGwirVol Case Study Volunteering Interview: VickieGwirVol Case Study Volunteering Interview: Selina

Volunteer Story – Sophie Phillips…

A volunteer, Sophie Phillips, has recently been accepted into her first choice University to study Social Work and she believes one of the key reasons she has been accepted is due to her volunteering experience with Neath Port Talbot CVS.

For over two years Sophie was a volunteer with the Social Services Volunteering Scheme, primarily supporting a vulnerable child on a one to one basis but she also supported a young man to volunteer in a charity shop through a mentoring project. Sophie didn’t really know what to expect when she started volunteering, but she feels the experience has been far greater than she could ever have envisaged. Sophie believes she learnt a great deal that will help her become a Social Worker, for example she admits to finding hearing the stories of the children she supported quite upsetting to begin with, but gradually learnt to put the stories into perspective and learnt a way to detach herself from the child’s situation. Sophie also found it challenging at first when a child put up barriers to try to prevent them engaging with the activity, and was something she took personally at first.

In addition to supporting children, Sophie had the opportunity to attend Child Protection Conferences, Looked After Children reviews, other multi-agency meetings along with a wide array of training courses attended by social workers. These gave her an insight into how social workers use relevant policies and legislation to make appropriate decisions about a young child’s life.

Although Sophie has now decided to finish volunteering, she felt fully supported throughout her time with Neath Port Talbot CVS by all staff members who, as soon as she mentioned she wanted to become a Social Worker, ensured she was able to attend relevant courses that would enhance her chances of being accepted into University.

If you would like to learn new skills, gain valuable experience and want to support vulnerable individuals in your community contact Neath Port Talbot CVS, 01639 631246 to find out more about our befriending projects.

Volunteer Story – Holly…

Gazing into my baby boy’s big baby blue’s and thinking to myself ‘you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for volunteering in Cambodia!’

One mundane morning in November 2014 I took the plunge and signed my anxious-self up to become a volunteer overseas with VSO ICS.

I was looking to do something spontaneous and that would help progress my career in the Third Sector. Only a few short days later I received an email inviting me to an interview assessment day!

After a successful interview I attended a training weekend in January 2015 and that’s where I first laid eyes on him.

I’m not sure if it was the 20+ cups of coffee he had drank that morning, or if he was genuinely the most excitable and life loving person I had ever met, but I instantly wanted to get to know him more.

After the training we added each other on Facebook and talked every day in the lead up to our placement. As the big day approached I wasn’t sure what I was more excited for; volunteering abroad for three months or seeing his happy face again.

We sat next to each other on the 18 hour plane journey to Cambodia and by the time we arrived I felt like we had known each other for years.

We were both passionate about the work we were undertaking at our separate organisations and put 110% into our active citizenship days. It was refreshing to meet somebody with a great work ethic and such a zest for life.

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We spent the entire 3 months laughing, singing and generally loving life when we were in each other’s company. He helped me through my low days where I was filled with anxiety and made my time volunteering in Cambodia an experience I’ll never forget.

When we arrived back in the UK we continued to travel together and spend weekends fundraising for the charity I work for.

He decided to move out of his home in Reading and move in with me in Wales to continue our adventures.

Volunteering abroad doesn’t only offer challenges, adventure and the chance to make a real difference but it also enables you to meet other like-minded people that you would never have had the chance to cross paths with in your day to day life. It brings together people from all over the UK.

We promised our Cambodian Counterpart’s that we would come back to Cambodia the following year. We both booked off 3 weeks from work for September 2016 but as the year went on we found out we were expecting a beautiful baby boy!

It’s now 2 years later and I’m now sat Gazing into my baby boy’s big baby blue’s and thinking to myself ‘you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for volunteering in Cambodia!’

Read more about Holly and Cambodia here.

Volunteer Story – Ceri…

Ceri decided to volunteer with Neath Port Talbot CVS because she was looking to gain experience to help her decide exactly what she was hoping to do in the future. She began volunteering with the Social Services Volunteering Scheme in May 2014 supporting a vulnerable young person on a one to one basis, with the aim of improving her confidence and self-esteem.

Ceri was able to engage quickly with the young person and encouraged her to take outings to Swansea and Cardiff in order to build her confidence using public transport. By spending time on a one to one basis, Ceri also encouraged the young person to open up about events in her life that she was struggling to cope with.

After supporting the young person for over a year, the difference Ceri had made to her was significant. The young person had come out of her shell a little, had now started looking positively towards her future and had begun to see some of the many qualities she had. Ceri explained the satisfaction she gained from seeing this change and recognising she had made a significant difference to a young person, really motivated her to push on with her desire to change career and she is now due to start a life coaching qualification in September.

Ceri did warn however that being a volunteer befriender isn’t all good, she did find it difficult supporting the young person at a time when the young person was feeling particularly down about her life. Ceri felt that whatever she did was making very little difference. However Ceri soon recognised this was a stage the young person needed to go through in order to deal with past traumatic events, rather than a reflection of her abilities as a volunteer befriender.

Ceri loved her experience with Neath Port Talbot CVS and strongly recommends other individuals think about volunteering with the scheme because only through offering direct support for a young person can an individual fully understand the complexities of a young person’s life. Furthermore the satisfaction Ceri gained through her time volunteering is something she will never forget.

If you would like to volunteer with the Social Services Volunteering Scheme to help vulnerable young people in your community, please contact Delyth Kealy on 01639 631246 or DelythK@nptcvs.org.uk

Volunteer Story – Stephen Davies…

“I have a purpose in life again, a reason to get out of bed in the morning.” This is how Stephen Davies, 59, from Neath describes his volunteering with Neath Port Talbot CVS on their Social Services Volunteering Scheme. For over 20 years Stephen worked for the Substance Misuse Services in South Powys, however in March 2011 he had a succession of strokes. This led to him being told he may never walk again. However with great determination, Stephen is gradually getting back to his old self. Volunteering with Neath Port Talbot CVS, by offering support to a vulnerable individual with disabilities has, Stephen believes, played a key role in his improvement. “It has helped not only my physical health, but mental health too as I am using the skills I learnt in my previous job again.”

Stephen highly recommends volunteering as a way to improve skills and confidence, whatever experience or background a person has. He feels that Neath Port Talbot CVS has fully understood his own health issues, and has fully supported him throughout his volunteering experience. If you think you have a spare couple of hours a week and are committed to support vulnerable individuals of any age within Neath Port Talbot, then contact Neath Port Talbot CVS on 01639 631246, @NPTCVS or go to www.nptcvs.wales for more information.

Volunteer Story – Amy…

I have been volunteering with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Neath Port Talbot since 2006. After I completed my Gold award with the Open Gold Centre, I decided to continue with the Duke of Edinburgh’s award as a leader. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to stay and help others achieve what I had achieved myself. Through the centre I gained my qualifications as an outdoor leader and have continued to have experiences I never would have had if I had not pushed myself to my limits. I have also been able to experience different aspects of volunteering; from being with the young people out in the Brecon Beacons or in a class room to sitting at a desk filling in some paper work! I thoroughly enjoy spending time with the young people who come to complete their award; I am able to help provide the opportunity for them to experience what I had and to show them that they can achieve anything with determination, dedication and self-belief.

I choose to volunteer for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award as I wanted to share my experiences with others. The Award changed my life and the person I was, I came out a whole new person; more confident, with a belief in my own abilities and with a sense of self-belief which I had not experienced before. I wanted to share my personal journey and experiences with others. I wanted to help those with no self-belief, show that they are able to achieve something and are valuable members of a team. I was lucky to have this initial experience but I am certainly even luckier that I could come back and volunteer and see young people go through the award process and become different people. To go from being quiet, often over-looked young people to outgoing and confident young adults is an amazing transformation. I feel very lucky that I can be a part of that experience.

I have enjoyed watching the development of the young people that go through the award. It is nice to know that they feel they can come to you knowing they will get the support and advice they need. I am privileged to be a part of the process that the young people take, becoming closer to adulthood and becoming the people they want to be. The sense of pride you feel after working with a group for a year as they cross that finish line is enough reward for anyone who is lucky enough to work with young people. You also have a lot of fun along the way !!

Through volunteering I have also had the opportunity to gain qualifications and life skills. I have more confidence in myself and my ability and have learnt how to communicate with a large group of young people. I have also learnt how to be a leader; how to be in control and still have fun and how to teach to people with varying learning styles. I have also gained an amazing group of friends; when you go through a difficult challenge together you become the closest of friends, trusting them completely and sharing an experience which you know you will not forget. I have also learnt how to push my limits, that you can do anything you set your mind to.

Through volunteering I have had experiences I would not have had otherwise. For example, when you are standing 3,010 feet at the top of Tryfan, (a mountain in Snowdonia, Wales) you realise the hard and terrifying climb to the top was one hundred percent worth it just for the feeling that YOU did it! That is what the participants of the Duke of Edinburgh Award get as they finish, the same feeling you share with them as they cross that finish line, and it makes all the work you put in completely worth it.

Amy was recently given a Millennium Volunteer Award of Excellence for completing 200 hours of volunteering, although she has actually completed 500 hours!

Volunteer Story – Andrew Webber…

The recent Youth Volunteer Awards allowed one young volunteer, Andrew Webber, to showcase his photography talents. Andrew has a keen interest in photography and in the future would like to work in the media field or ideally have his own photography business. Andrew believes that volunteering at an event like the Youth Volunteer Awards has helped him expand his photography portfoilio and helped him gain confidence in his abilities.

For the past year Andrew has been volunteering with Sanctuary Youth Club and takes photographs of their band at various events as well as designing and maintaining Sanctuary’s website. The skills gained from volunteering have given Andrew the confidence to enter a Sony photography competition for which he was shortlisted and the photograph was on their website for a time. Andrew was also asked to attend a Foyer Federation conference in London to showcase his skills and the skills of other Clarewood residents.

Andrew’s volunteering however has not just been about media. While a resident at Gwalia Clarewood Foyer he set up a residents’ forum for residents to share views with staff, which is how he first got interested in volunteering. Andrew produced a film of cooking sessions that have taken place at Clarewood to highlight the progress made by young people at the project and this will be shown to future residents so they can see the types of activities that go on at Clarewood.

Andrew also completed the Jamie Oliver cookery course and used these skills to help other residents make cakes for the Youth Volunteer Awards and made beef stew and apple crumble for a ‘Feed the Leaders’ event during Neath Food Festival.

Andrew believes it is really important for young people to consider volunteering because it has enhanced his CV, added to his skills, has kept him occupied before he goes back to College and he gets a feel good factor from helping his community.

Volunteer Story – Tom Pallett…

Tom is NPYCVS longest serving volunteer and a positive example of how volunteering can help to improve your health.

Tom became a volunteer with West Glamorgan Council for Voluntary Service in 1993, to aid his recovery following a period in hospital.

He began volunteering in Gelligron Day Centre in Pontardawe, helping with self support groups for people suffering from mental illness.

in 1997 following the local government re-organisation tom became part of the Social Services Volunteering Scheme delivered by Neath Port Talbot CVS. Tom has continued to offer his support to a group of mental health service users who meet on a Wednesday morning. Working alongside the group leaders, Tom welcomes people into the group makes them feel comfortable and relaxed; he is always available to make a cup of tea and toast.

Volunteering had given Tom the opportunity to get back into society but also enormous enjoyment. Over the years he has met people who have become close friends and believes that helping each other is important to stay emotionally and physically well. Tom never intends to retire as a volunteer.

“it’s so good, I thoroughly enjoy it. I never take holidays and it gives me routine in my week. I look forward to Wednesday mornings and I enjoy the company of the service users and group leaders. I would recommend volunteering for any older person- it keeps you occupied, stops you vegetating and gives you a sense of purpose. as long as I am fit and healthy I will will be volunteering at 91- I have no intention of stopping.”

Katie, aged 24 from Neath Port Talbot…

How did you get interested in volunteering?

Katie started volunteering in Neath Christian Bookshop approximately two years ago.  She got involved through her church.  At the start of 2012, Katie became interested in a career in social services / working with children and thought volunteering could help pursue this further.

Why did you get involved?

Katie wanted to gain some experience to see if she enjoyed working with children.  Katie got involved with the bookshop because a member of her church asked her to help.  Katie volunteered abroad because it was something she had always thought about doing and has thought about possibly working abroad in the future.

What sort of volunteering have you been doing?  For how long? Who do you do it with (organisation / people – relationship)?

Neath Christian Bookshop – Katie works on the till, opens and closes the shop, sorts the stock and merchandises it appropriately, handles customer queries and serves customers.  Katie volunteers on average a day a week at the shop.

Rainbows and Brownies – Katie has been volunteering here since February / March 2012.  She is currently training to be a leader with Rainbows and also assists the leaders with the Brownies.  She helps to organise activities for the children including arts and crafts and various games.

Supporting Families – Katie volunteers with a young family in Neath Port Talbot. The mum has two children aged two and three.  Once a week Katie volunteers with the family and helps the mum accompanying her and her children to a local music club for the children.  Katie will then take the children to the park to allow the mum to have some time to undertake domestic chores in their house.

Volunteering abroad – Katie volunteered in a children’s home in Guatemala for three weeks as part of a project with a missions organisation.  Her role in the home included washing, cooking, cleaning and playing with the children.  There were approximately 50 children at the home, 35 were 3 or under.  The children were abandoned or orphans.

What do you get out of volunteering?  Has volunteering helped you to do other things?

Katie feels she has got a great deal of experience from her volunteering, partly because she has undertaken a variety of different roles.  Katie believes her confidence has grown because she has had to do things that have taken her out of her comfort zone such as starting to do things she didn’t think she had the skills to do such as; leading activities in Rainbows. Prior to volunteering Katie had never worked with children, from her volunteering Katie has realised just how much she enjoys this and realises she is good at relating to children.  This experience has made her realise how much she wants to work with children and has led her to look at a career in a nursery leading to Katie studying a Childcare: Learning and Development course in College.

Volunteering abroad has really opened Katie’s eyes to some of the things that go on in the rest of the world, and the unfortunate situations many children find themselves in.  Katie found it a really useful experience to work in a team with people she didn’t really know and has encouraged her to learn Spanish.

What helps you to keep going?

Katie feels volunteering is very rewarding because she knows the hours she puts in are helping other people.  Katie can see the enjoyment the children in Rainbows get from the activities Katie organises which is giving her the motivation to continue the training to be a qualified leader.  With regards to the family she supports, she can tell that the mum really appreciates having a couple of hours to be able to catch up on the housework and that the mum trusts Katie with her children which is a really big thing.

Neath Christian bookshop has had difficult times recently, Katie is still involved because she really wants to see the shop survive and wants to help other people she knows through her church to keep it going.

Is there anything (including different volunteering) you would like to do in the future?

Katie is now set on becoming a nursery assistant in the future and so is currently looking at some volunteering with younger children in a nursery setting. Katie would also consider volunteering with a Parkinson’s disease charity in the future.  Katie would love to be able to volunteer abroad again in the future and possibly even work abroad, particularly in Latin America.

Other questions:

Best thing about volunteering- the sense and satisfaction that you are helping others.

Worst- Nothing!

Alex, age 17 from Neath Port Talbot…

How did you get interested in volunteering?

I became interested in volunteering during Year 9. I wanted to learn new skills and I had some spare time. Afan FM came to the school to talk about volunteering which really interested me so I applied to volunteer with them.

Why did you get involved?

I am interested in media and would like to become a journalist or radio presenter in the future.   I wanted to learn new skills.

What sort of volunteering have you been doing?  For how long?  Who do you do it with (organisation / people – relationship)?

I have been a presenter with Afan FM (now XS) since January 2009. I prepared and presented a live show, Teen Voice, which is a show that deals with issues affecting teenagers. I have also helped on the technical side of the radio station. I have now completed over 500 hours for the station.

I have been volunteering with a College fundraising group called Interact.  Some of the activities include walking to Port Talbot and playing music / singing in the town centre to raise money for Comic Relief and holding a College talent show for Children in Need.   We also organise social trips to places like Cardiff for food and ice skating.

Also in Neath Port Talbot College I am currently trying to set up a radio station and run this as a mini enterprise.

I put myself forward for the Student Union and after a campaign I was elected as the Activities and Entertainments Officer in September 2011.   I have to listen to students and take on board their opinions when organising events and activities while working under the constraints of a budget. We are currently planning a summer festival to help celebrate Neath Port Talbot College’s 80th Birthday.

What do you get out of volunteering?  Has volunteering helped you to do other things?

I get massive satisfaction from helping the local community and learning new skills.  It has been great to experience new things such as trying my hand at radio presenting.  It has also helped with my college life by giving me skills I can use in my studies such as working in a team, communication, ICT and problem solving.  My initial volunteering with Afan FM also helped me when volunteering elsewhere.

What helps you to keep going?

I really enjoy volunteering because I’m doing something I love (particularly the media aspect), it’s fun and it will help me when I apply for University as I am looking to do a media course.

Is there anything (including different volunteering) you would like to do in the future?

I am always open to new ideas; a good example of this is the College radio station. This was an idea that I had; I took to the Enterprise Officer and looked to develop it into a new project and the chance for students to volunteer on a radio station.

Other questions?

I am currently working towards my MV certificates.  I also won the Neath Market Traders Federation Spirit Award for my commitment to volunteering, which was presented to me at the Neath Port Talbot Youth Volunteer Awards.  The best thing about volunteering is meeting and working with new people

I would recommend it to others because it is a worthwhile experience and you never know when it could help you in the future.

Vickie, aged 14 from Neath Port Talbot…

How did you get interested in volunteering?

At the age of seven, Vickie started helping her Grandmother at Briton Ferry Brass band. Vickie collected money while the band was playing.  Vickie got involved in volunteering at a youth club and volunteering in church just from attending.  In school Vickie was asked to help with sport and became a 5×60 Young Ambassador.

Why did you get involved?

Vickie got involved because she has lived in a number of different places and recognised that in some places there are no opportunities or activities for people in the community.  Vickie believes it is important that people like her volunteer to ensure activities carry on running and also that she helps to promote the activities available in the community.  With regards to the Youth Club Vickie believes if she didn’t get involved it would mean more pressure is put on other people, therefore, individuals should take responsibility, help out and share the workload appropriately between staff and volunteers.

What sort of volunteering have you been doing? For how long? Who do you do it with (organisation / people – relationship)?

Vickie has been volunteering with Briton Ferry brass band from the age of seven.  She raises money; helps set up equipment before a performance, distribute flyers, provide teas and coffees and tidies up after a performance.

In school Vickie helps with the SNAG (School Nutrition Action Group), the co-operative food group, helps with cookery classes for year seven.  Vickie is also a 5×60 ambassador in school and runs dodge ball, badminton, football and fitness classes.

Briton Ferry Sea Cadets- Vickie has recently got involved with the sea cadets and helps with administrative tasks such as updating the website, taking subs, general paperwork and also taking photographs of the activities.

With church members Vickie will visit elderly people in a local care home and chat to them, give out leaflets and information in Neath, help run activities in the youth club and also visit elderly people in their home to help out.

At Cimla Youth Club, Vickie assists the staff there by completing the youth club paperwork on a weekly basis.

What do you get out of volunteering? Has volunteering helped you to do other things?

Vickie feels that volunteering is great fun.  Vickie enjoys knowing that she has influenced how people feel and enjoys seeing people she has helped smile.  Vickie also believes that while she is helping others, she is helping herself by seeing things she wouldn’t normally see, creating opportunities for herself and helping her when it comes to her future.

Volunteering has helped Vickie to understand people more and empathise with them. Completing administrative duties and helping at brass band performances has also helped her organisational skills.

What helps you to keep going?

Vickie keeps on volunteering because she can see the difference she makes and wants to do her bit for the community and try to ensure there isn’t too much pressure on other volunteers to run activities.

Is there anything (including different volunteering) you would like to do in the future?

Vickie is currently undertaking some accreditation in volunteering through the Youth Service which she knows is useful for her CV.  Vickie is unsure if there is anything else specific she would like to do at the moment but is keen to help out organisations in whatever way she can.

Other questions?

Vickie finds it difficult when young people don’t see how volunteering is helpful or don’t understand what she is trying to do which makes it increasingly difficult to help them.

Vickie is currently working towards her MV awards, she has achieved 50 hours already (although more than likely she has already done well over 100 hours before she was 14).

The best thing about volunteering is making people smile and knowing she has helped them.

Selina, aged 15, from Neath Port Talbot…

How did you get interested in volunteering?

Selina first got interested in volunteering through a number of schemes in school including fundraising and peer mentoring. The Youth Volunteer Development Officer from Neath Port Talbot CVS delivered a workshop in Selina’s school which triggered her interest in volunteering in the wider community.

Why did you get involved?

Selina decided to get involved with volunteering because she recognised how volunteering would improve her college and university applications.  Selina also wanted to meet new people and make a difference to others by volunteering.

What sort of volunteering have you been doing? For how long? Who do you do it with (organisation/people – relationship)?

Selina was a peer mentor in Llangatwg Community School for a year and also fundraised for a number of charities in school by organising events and activities such as concerts and ‘Splash the teacher’

Throughout 2012 Selina helped organise the Neath Port Talbot Youth Volunteer Awards where young people raised over £2500 through sponsorship and advertising for the event to go ahead.

What do you get out of volunteering? Has volunteering helped you to do other things?

Selina feels she has improved her communication skills and confidence; been given the chance to meet new people; gain recognition for her volunteering through being named the Student Volunteer of the Year at the Neath Port Talbot Youth Volunteer Awards 2011; she has had new experiences and been given the chance to go to events such as an open day with the Ospreys rugby team.

What helps you to keep going?

Selina continues to volunteer because she thoroughly enjoys what she does, has become good friends with the other volunteers on the Youth Volunteer Awards organising committee, and is currently working towards her MV certificates.

Is there anything (including different volunteering) you would like to do in the future?

Selina is particularly interested in volunteering abroad in the future. She also has an interest in volunteering with elderly people. Selina wants to continue promoting youth volunteering across the area to encourage more young people to consider volunteering.

What is the best thing about volunteering?

The best thing for Selina has been meeting a variety of people of various different ages.

What is the worst thing about volunteering?

In September Selina will be leaving for the Netherlands to study with United World Colleges, therefore the worst thing for Selina will be having to stop her volunteering in Neath Port Talbot while she is studying abroad.

Video Stories…

Tom Bawden works at Neath Library and other places as a Digital Inclusion Volunteer.
This is his story. Directed by Richard Jack Smith

April Kelly, a young volunteer from Port Talbot.
April talks about her volunteering experiences in Neath Port Talbot.

Volunteering with Port Talbot & Afan Women’s Aid

Volunteering with NPT Shake

Volunteering with UNA Exchange

An interview with Richard Lewis.
Richard needed assistance regarding his PowerPoint presentation. Directed by Richard Jack Smith.