Volunteers week runs from 1st – 7th June each year, where we celebrate the contribution volunteers make to JRS. Jacob, JRS volunteer, shares with us his experience of volunteering.
Volunteering has always been a part of my life. When I was younger, every Sunday after church, my grandmother would support a lot of homeless people at my house. We provided them with food, and everyone would sit down together to eat. My whole family would get involved and I saw the difference I could make in people’s lives with small acts of generosity. My grandmother inspired me to help others and now, even though I am not rich and don’t have money, I give what I have, which is my time.
When I am volunteering at the JRS Shop, I try to be friendly and welcoming to people, smile as they come into the building and offer them a coffee or tea and perhaps some snacks. I can see the difference in people’s faces from when they arrive to when they leave the centre. Everyone who is supported by JRS has their own stories, often painful, and can feel a lot of stress. When they come to the shop, although they say they are ok, I can tell that they are not happy and have a lot on their minds. But, by the end of their visit, I can see that their mood has improved and by the time they leave us, generally, they have a smile on their face. I think it is the job of the volunteers to not only help people take their food, but also make people feel happy and comfortable, by chatting to them and making them feel part of the JRS family. I have a friendly and warm personality (people call me the smiley face man!) so I like to chat with others and show interest in their lives. It is amazing to see how a smile and short conversation can make such a difference in someone’s mood!
It is important to work as a team with the other volunteers. We all help each other and don’t leave one person to do all of the work. I enjoy working with other people and get on well with my colleagues. Sometimes things don’t go quite to plan, or we make mistakes on the computer, but that is just part of the experience! I think it is also important for volunteers to be able to stay calm in stressful situations. Sometimes refugee friends come to the shop and are stressed or angry about something – it can seem like they are not happy with the volunteers, but I think it is usually because of something else that has happened. We try not to take it personally or react with anger, but instead, encourage them to calm down and relax so that we can support them.
Volunteering also has benefits for me personally. Firstly, it is helping to maintain my skills and ensure that I am ready for work. Before that, I worked in hospitality and customer service, so this role helps me to keep practising my communication and people skills so that when I am able to work again, I will hopefully be able to find a job quickly.
Volunteering also helps me to forget my stress and problems. Sometimes, when I arrive at the centre, I am not feeling good and am worrying about my situation. I have a lot of anxiety. Helping other people makes me forget this and feel better. I leave my problems outside the door and focus on the task at hand. I feel happy when I am volunteering at the shop.
I also volunteer for several other charities and food banks. I love nature, birds and animals and do a lot of volunteer work for wildlife charities, rescuing and helping pigeons and all birds nearly every day. But I will always be committed to volunteering at JRS because they have helped me when I have gone through difficult times, and I know they will be there for me if I am struggling again in the future. I want to give back where I can, and I am always ready to help out at JRS whenever I am needed!
Did Jacob’s volunteering experience inspire you? If so, we are always looking for volunteers to support our JRS team. Our volunteers have made a huge difference over the last year and you can be a part of that.