Another story for Volunteers’ Week – this time from Amina, who went from volunteering with Touchstone to getting a job with Touchstone’s Peer-Led Brokerage Service.

You do not hear many people say this, but I am truly blessed as I love my job and the organisation I work within. Volunteering has enabled me to reach this point and I would like to share my experience with others to give hope.
This time last year, I was living in a hostel having been out of prison for just two months. Initially, I wanted to volunteer simply to gain up-to date references. At the time, I was on a program called Step-Change and had a support worker from Touchstone. I was very eager to use my time effectively and to help make a difference in the community. I started to volunteer with organisations such as Disc and Voluntary Action Leeds and went onto the Volunteers training course with Touchstone.  I was not actively seeking employment as I needed a stable roof over my head first before employment. Waiting for the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check was quite frustrating as it meant I could not fulfil my full role as a volunteer. Nevertheless, I continued to volunteer at VAL as an Outreach Worker and undertook office work with Nafisa and Naseem at Touchstone.
Finally, in March my DBS check came through. However, I was offered accommodation in Dewsbury so my priorities had now changed and I moved from Leeds to Dewsbury in April this year. It took a few months to set up home therefore I did no volunteering during that time.  At the end of May, I got a phone call from Nafisa asking about my availability, at which point I was in a much better position to focus on voluntary work. Nafisa arranged for us to meet a service user, however the meeting fell through as he cancelled at the last minute. Nafisa then offered to introduce me to the Kirklees office to make productive use of my time. This led to an offer of volunteering as a peer broker within the Kirklees area. The Peer Brokerage Service (PBS) provides support for individuals who have a Self Directed Support budget from Kirklees Council. SDS is granted to those with mental health issues to support the individual to live within the community. As a Peer Broker, my role involved identifying individual’s needs and finding the most appropriate solution to fulfil their needs. This involved visiting the service users, researching the best solution, before implementing it.  I learnt the different processes and procedures involved within this service. I was now in a position to commit two full days of my time to volunteering. I took on a very “hands on” approach and gained knowledge, experience and skills that I otherwise would not have without volunteering.
In July vacancies within the Peer Brokerage service were advertised, I applied. I was then interviewed in August and was successful. I have now been in post as a Peer Broker since August.  Whilst being employed I have continued to volunteer time outside of peer brokerage undertaking other opportunities within Touchstone.  In September, I was surprised to receive the “Volunteer of the Year” award, as my initial motive for volunteering was references! Needless to say, I have gained far more than just up-to date references.
Volunteering has enabled me to gain confidence, self-esteem, value my life, meet different people, and make positive differences to individuals’ lives, – the list is simply endless!  Most of all I feel I am regaining my lost years.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the volunteer organisations and especially Nafisa Miraf, Naseem Tariq, Alison Lowe and Jane Mackay for believing in me, taking a chance and giving me the opportunities – which have literally transformed my life. I am eternally grateful.