Hear from our volunteers
I started volunteering at Via in October 2020 as a Volunteer Recovery Practitioner.
I used to work in the fashion industry, however I made the decision to change careers because I wanted to make a difference to people’s lives. I’ve experience of addiction and I feel that I can make use of what I have learnt from my own recovery journey to help others facing similar difficulties with substance misuse. Having studied Psychology at the University of East London, I also wanted to apply my psychology background to my volunteering and work.
The best thing for me about volunteering [at Via] is the wide range of professional training that is available.
I’ve had the opportunity to learn and develop by shadowing some very knowledgeable mentors and by attending many courses. I was also able to gain valuable experience working with services users by co-facilitating health trainings and non-dependent groups.
As well as helping service users with their drug and alcohol issues, I’ve also been able help them with other areas of their life too.
Some of our service users don’t have access to the internet and they struggle to fill in online forms. This can make it difficult for them to access essential services like benefits and housing support. I’ve helped people access benefits and food vouchers by supporting them with form filling and contacting agencies.
My volunteering experience has also helped in my own personal life as I’ve developed transferrable life skills such as boundary setting, SMART goals, and office etiquette.
Volunteering has boosted my self-confidence and sense of achievement and has helped me achieve my career goal to work in the drug and alcohol field.
Don’t be afraid to try new things – volunteering is a life changing experience!
After more than a decade of working hard and playing hard in my spare time, my lifestyle finally caught up with me; I burnt out in spectacular fashion, descending into addiction, losing my job and my home in the process.
Life became a matter of survival until I engaged with Via and was helped to gradually rebuild from the ground up. I was encouraged to attend training to become a peer mentor by my keyworker.
When the opportunity came up to help welcome new service users in the Induction Group I took it, even though I wasn’t sure sharing my experience of recovery would be relevant to anyone else. The positive response I got from the group members hearing from someone who had been in their position and managed to turn things around made me realise I could have an impact.
The role helped me build my self-esteem back up and I felt like I had some purpose again. With the confidence that brought me, I decided to go back to studying, and enrolled on a counselling course.
Over the three years I have been at college, I have continued to volunteer at Via in various roles. I recently did some great experiential training with other volunteers that gave me a boost in my skills.
Finally, impossibly, I’ve come full circle and am helping train a brilliant new group of peer mentors. I’d never have believed it if someone had told me that one day I’d be in front of a class teaching, but here I am.
If you are someone who is considering taking up a volunteering role, my advice is to grab the opportunity.
The experience that I’ve had at Via has been encouragement to challenge myself in a supportive environment.
It has allowed me to build skills that have opened up options for me to get back into work and turned what was a very difficult time in my life into something meaningful.