Volunteers Week 2021 – hearing from our volunteer, Linda

1 – 7 June is Volunteers Week and all week the Recovery Focus Group is celebrating and hearing from our volunteers about their experiences volunteering with us, particularly during a pandemic! Make sure to follow the Recovery Focus social media and the rest of the Recovery Focus partners to keep up with the week, including our Aquarius twitter 

Today we are hearing from one of our incredible volunteers, Linda, Lead Volunteer for the Steps To Change project. Linda talks about her 7 years of  volunteering with us at Aquarius, her role as a volunteer, what she has been doing during the pandemic to keep on supporting Aquarius, and sharing favourite memories along the way. Thank you, Linda, for all your hard work and for sharing your story today! 

Hi, I’m Linda, I am 72 and have been volunteering with Aquarius for over seven years. The work I have covered in that time has included so many different subjects and experiences. Not only around addiction and mental health but also around how, with the right influences, peoples lives can change. 

It has allowed me to develop my own education and experience new things, from which I have found the real things I am good at and enjoy. I have gone down new paths I would never have thought possible before. Most of all the friendships have enriched my life. 

When the pandemic came, I was so pleased and very lucky that I was helping in a project called Steps to Change at Aquarius funded by Sports England. It is for people affected by addiction and others connected to them. The idea is to show them different types of exercises such as walking, light stretches and chair exercisesIt’s about coming together in a group of like-minded people not to talk about your problems but to enjoy the company, feel less isolated, and to concentrate on yourself for a change all whilst giving your body a gentle work out. 

However, all groups had to stop! Thankfully the lady running Steps to Change had a wonderful idea of how we could keep in touch with everyone. We met up and put together activity packs to send out to service usersThere were crosswords, word searches, puzzles, quizzes, information on how to continue the exercises at home, how to keep healthy, the importance of drinking water and pictures to colour. 

My main tasks each week were to print off the paperwork, write out over 100 envelopes, stamp them and send them to the clients. Now we are able to meet up with two other volunteers to help with this.

To date we have sent over 3000 packs outyou would not believe how much we look forward to meeting every two weeks, having a good chat and laugh while doing a worthwhile job

I often make calls to the clients to see how they are doing. The feedback we get is so rewarding, I know from our work we have helped many people and ourselves. I cannot wait to see them again. 

My IT has also improved so much over this year that I have been able to continue with meetings using Zoom. From helping with interviews for new managers within Aquarius, to attending Trustee Board meetings, continuing my connection with the Working Together Sub Committee and Anchor.  

One of my favourite memories volunteering with Aquarius would be when I was asked if I would like to be a trustee! Another that comes to mind is after running a family support groupa new lady said I am not sitting here in 20 years’ time after hearing what you have gone through, I am going home to make changes.”  These are the times I really feel that my volunteering is so worthwhile. 

Over my many years volunteering I have been given the opportunity to be involved in all areas throughout Aquarius. From different projects, to joining several committees, at which I was given the opportunity to put my ideas forward and see them taken on board, making me feel that I have made a difference along the way. 

Being asked for my opinion or to explain from my lived experience how I felt about a situation by a member of staff means a great deal to me. 

I have been asked several times to deliver talks about my different lived experiences. I realised that this was what I enjoyed doing, it’s an ability I didn’t know I had. After giving a talk to over 300 people they all stood and applauded me, several told me I would make a good motivational speaker and I was so proud of myself. Again, when a manager asked if I would look over the family training for the staff elearning module, I made some suggestions, they were accepted and then changed on the module. 

While working with the family project we put on several pantos, parties and different events from which I realised from my work as a Nursery Nurse for over 20 years back in time I still had a lot to give. I love to organise, support people to realise their potential, and most of all see people make life changes. My volunteering has helped me to find new ways of fulfilling my life.