Volunteer Spotlight: Jen’s story

Volunteering holds many rewards; an opportunity to do something in your local community for people in need. It can provide a safe, welcoming environment to connect with people who are experiencing homelessness or isolation. It offers a chance to build new relationships, learning new skills and put creative talents to good use!

Jen works full time as an Assistant Professor in Media and volunteers two hours a week at Emmanuel House.  Here’s what she had to say about volunteering with us:

“I feel strongly about the housing crisis and the increasing homelessness… So the idea of doing something practical to help people who are affected really appealed.  My first shift was in the kitchen, and it was very lively and friendly.  It was nice to get a sense of the range of service users, all in different positions – some new and uncertain, regulars having a joke with volunteers, some who were moving on in their lives but glad of familiar faces.

I have mostly volunteered in the charity shop, because people are always needed there.  It’s great to know that every penny that goes through the till goes straight to funding the support services through the adjoining door.  I enjoy lots of aspects of the shop – volunteering with all sorts of different people, coming up with new ideas to display items we suddenly have a lot of, choosing items for the window display…  Tasks like sorting the clothes rails by colour are calming.   My favourite thing is talking to service users who come in to browse and for a natter.  You learn a lot about their lives and the challenges they’ve faced, but we also have a laugh and a joke.

I think volunteering gives me a sense of belonging to the city as a whole, being part of its civic life.  It takes me out of my privileged middle-class bubble, and gives me a sense of how other people live and the struggles they face, which make my own stresses and worries seem trivial.  Although I have a very rewarding day job, I think volunteering gives me a different sense of reward – I don’t have any useful skills to contribute in this context, just my time and commitment, the same as everyone else, and that is oddly satisfying.

I sometimes find it a challenge to fit volunteering into my life, as there are so many demands on our time these days, but I’m always glad that I’ve made time for it”.

If you would like to know more about volunteering at Emmanuel House, please visit the Volunteering Page on our website.

(Jennifer Birks, Emmanuel House Volunteer)