[GUEST BLOG]: My Eye-Opening Experience of Volunteering Whilst Furloughed

Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, our ‘Friends of Mustard Tree’ volunteers have helped us deliver our essential services – this is one account of Danielle’s time with us.

Having only recently returned to work after a long stint of furlough leave, I wanted to share my furlough experience in the hope that it inspires others to not only reach out and help those in need, but to support their own mental health too.

When the first lockdown hit, it was tough on all of us. During those first couple of months, I struggled to occupy myself and feel purposeful. The business I am employed by, Foundation Recruitment, has a CSR partner that we have supported over the last four years, Mustard Tree. FR was proactive in supporting me and my peers when on furlough and gave us the (optional!) opportunity to volunteer.

Photography – Nick Harrison

As someone who needs to be busy, I jumped at the chance. I was aware of the partnership the business had forged with Mustard Tree and the volunteering we had done, but I had not had the chance to get involved personally. Naturally, I got in touch with Mustard Tree and did my research before starting my new, temporary “job”. I was already aware of the amazing work they do in Manchester to prevent homelessness and poverty, but I was astounded to learn just to what extent.

Since the start of the pandemic, the number of people The Mustard Tree are supporting has skyrocketed. People are under more financial pressure than ever before; thousands have lost their jobs and even those in work are having to cope with the additional strain of feeding children at home all the time. This places more pressure on a charity already stretched thin.

My role varied from day to day; I helped people to choose what they would like in their food parcel, a more challenging task than you might expect as many Mustard Tree clients have no access to any cooking facilities, or even a fridge. Working on the helpdesk involved fielding enquiries and booking in furniture deliveries and collections. Selling furniture generates vital income for the charity, but they also give it away to people who are entering into a new tenancy having been previously homeless, another massive help to those who do not have the means to furnish a property themselves. Every day was so rewarding.

I felt lucky to be able to be a part of this business throughout 2020. Not only did it save my sanity(!) and made the long wait to get back into work not just bearable but enjoyable, but I could witness, first-hand, just how much difference the charity makes to so many people daily. It was a genuinely humbling experience.

As we find ourselves in yet another national lockdown, I would urge anyone who has found themselves at a loose end, either through redundancy or furlough, to investigate local charities looking for volunteers. Most of them rely heavily on the support of volunteers so you would have the chance to make a difference.

Overall, I think I was the one who benefitted most from volunteering at Mustard Tree. At a time when I felt purposeless, it helped me to know that I was making a positive contribution. Mustard Tree’s staff, volunteers and clients were all a wonderful group of people who made every day different and entertaining in some way. Working with them all was a genuine pleasure.

Foundation Recruitment are continuing our partnership with Mustard Tree and cannot speak highly enough of the work that they do. If anyone would like to know more about the charity (or even look at volunteering there!) here is a link to their website: https://mustardtree.org.uk/