Anna Morelle Grey developed epilepsy when she was 15 and as a result, a lot of career paths were unavailable to her.
She went into retail working for companies including John Lewis and Victoria Wine and soon became an assistant manager. However, due to lighting, long hours and heavy medication she had to re-evaluate her career choices and eventually gave up her position in retail.
Looking for a different direction, Anna enrolled at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff as a mature student to study psychology for three years.
She sought advice early on from a careers centre and was told that the best job to suit her was a counsellor but she didn’t feel she had enough work experience. Despite this, being a counsellor was always in the back of her mind as career option. She really liked the idea of becoming a counsellor and felt that some valuable work experience in that field may help, so she turned to volunteering.
She started out with the Samaritans as had always admired what they’d done. After a number of years volunteering for them she ended up as a Deputy Director at Cardiff Samaritans in a voluntary role. Part time, Anna’s volunteering at Samaritans gave her the flexibility to complete her Psychology course and yet also gain invaluable work experience at the same time.
Not only helping to develop her knowledge of mental health which really added to her psychology studies but through volunteering at Samaritans Anna gained the experience she needed to chase the idea that had always been in the back of her mind, to become a counsellor. After having completed her course and becoming a qualified counsellor, Anna started in a paid administration position at Cardiff Mind and now, she is in the process of setting up her own counselling practice. Not forgetting the value and sense of fulfilment of volunteering, Anna also still volunteers as a counsellor at Cardiff Mind.
Commenting on the value of volunteering Anna says,
“Volunteering offers experience that money can’t buy - it really prepared me for the real world of paid work. Not only did it help me decide the career I wanted to pursue and provide me with a foot in the door but it had an enormous effect on my wellbeing too. I was out of work after I gave up my career in retail and as a result felt really alone and isolated. Volunteering gave me a sense of self worth and normality again – it’s empowering because it’s a means of learning and developing new skills.
The TimeBank newsletter provides me with ideas for how I can put my free time to good use by volunteering – It helps me in my role as a counsellor too as I can advise clients on how they can enhance and fill their own time through volunteering. It provides me with volunteering ideas which I wouldn't necessarily have thought about, and it demonstrates that anyone can volunteer - no matter who they are, whether deaf, blind or disabled, where they are, or how many hours they can spare – everyone has something to offer.”