New to TimeBank – but not new to volunteeringLeanne McGuire
I started with TimeBank on March 2, 2020 as Project Administrator for Shoulder to Shoulder Online – three weeks before the Government announced a UK wide lockdown to help in the fight against Coronavirus. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel extremely thankful for this timing! Had it been a few weeks later, I may not have been able to start at all or had I still been working in my previous job, I may not have had job security to ensure an income coming into my household.
Thankfully, I have many years of experience working in a charity setting. I am also used to working from home at times but what has been the most beneficial is my volunteering experience. I know what it takes to co-ordinate large groups of volunteers and how you need to be organised to keep on top of it. I also find I work best under a bit of pressure and being a very hands-on person, I love being busy and learning new things. Certainly, starting a new job then having to quickly work from home during a lockdown is a new learning experience!
Being able to continue to work has been so good for my own sanity at home too. It has given me and my family structure and motivation. It is also a good feeling to know you are providing a key service to those who need it.
Shoulder to Shoulder Online provides mentoring support to ex-service men and women and their families. During such an uncertain and challenging time like now, a mentor can feel like the calm within the storm. I know this through experience of being a mentor to high school pupils. That one hour a week I spend with my mentee allows both of us to take a time out from the everyday worries and stresses. It gives the mentee a safe place to chat, confide and ask for support without being judged. Mentoring allows the mentor to switch off from their own problems and help someone else with theirs, lifting their own mood as well as their mentee’s. I enjoy mentoring because not only do I pass on my knowledge and skills to my mentee, I learn from them too.
The main part of my new role has been volunteer recruitment. I carry out induction calls, check their Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) applications and introduce them to the Odro video platform we use. It’s been hard work speaking to four or five volunteers a day. Trying to remember all the key points to cover. Keeping track of each stage. But I have also loved it. Speaking to all these new people, sharing with each other how we are coping during lockdown and learning that they all want to help and give back in some way by volunteering. It’s a reminder of how kind people can be.
Our volunteers come from all walks of life, and believe me I know, I’ve spoken to A LOT over the past few weeks. This is what makes a good mentor though: variety and life experience. Our mentees do not come in a standard package so neither should our volunteers. Sure, we try to match people through something they may have in common, but we also want them to learn new things from each other, expand their knowledge and confidence.
To volunteer as a mentor, you don’t have to be over of a certain age bracket (adult only however), you don’t have to work in a particular industry, you don’t have to have served in the armed forces. The only qualities we seek are kindness, enthusiasm, commitment and non-judgemental. During lockdown I have noticed that these qualities seem to be in abundance, and I hope we all continue to display these more going forward into the ‘new normal’.