Volunteers’ Week 2023: Alan

Volunteers’ Week 2023: Alan

I was born in Rotherham but I moved to Manchester when I was 2. I originally joined Mustard Tree as a Freedom Project trainee and stayed on as a ‘Friend of’ volunteer after graduating. I volunteer on the Food Club, retail and help with customer service.

I was on the Freedom Project initially (Mustard Tree’s life-skills and employability training placement). I was sent my job centre for the Freedom Project, having been out of work for 10 years due to spinal problems, and have been volunteering for 14 months in total (Freedom Project from February – October 2022), and have been a ‘Friend of’ volunteer since.

People had told me in the past that I would ‘never get a job’, but my careers advisor said I had a lot of skills and should come to a Mustard Tree open day. I was interested in volunteering to begin with – after sitting at home for 10 years. I felt wasted being told I couldn’t do anything.

The Freedom Project gave me a new meaning – my health and confidence improved. I enjoyed training with the staff and wanted to stay on as a volunteer. It’s the best position I’ve had since leaving school. The main thing I enjoy is the staff I work with. Everyone here has been fantastic – I don’t have a fault or quibble. I enjoy the interaction with customers and think I’ve had a good day if I have helped someone for 10-15 minutes.

My health and confidence definitely improved through volunteering. It also made me understand what is out there and what people are going through. I can recognise when people are struggling. It really has been a confidence booster – it has changed my life. It makes me feel that it’s worth getting up in the morning. It feels like I’m wanted and valued.

My favourite moment whilst volunteering was around 6 months ago when a lady came in in tears. I sat down with her and asked if she was ok and she told me her life story. I spent 40 minutes with her and gave her a big hug. She said “thanks so much for today – just wanted someone to talk to”.

I post a lot on my Facebook and promote the Food Club and the sales we have. I’ve tried a few times to get people here. I would recommend it and sometimes ask the Job Centre to put people forward.

What song best sums up your volunteering experience:
I’ve got two – ‘Happiness is an Option’ and ‘Metamorphosis’ (both Pet Shop Boys). They are about self-improvement and bettering yourself.

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