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“For the first time in a long time, I was doing something worthwhile, something that mattered to others”

After graduating from university last year, I found myself with some spare time on my hands, which I felt could be spent on something more meaningful than Netflix and nights out! So I decided I would volunteer my services to a charity, but the question of ‘Which one?’ lingered in my mind. Whilst all charities are worthy causes, I wished to lend my hand to one that spoke to me, and when I discovered Shared Lives Plus through a recommendation from my uncle, I knew that this was the place I needed to be.

Now, I must throw my hands up and admit that I didn’t know a single thing about adult social care, let alone Shared Lives, so I felt it best to some research before reaching out and offering my assistance. Whilst reading some of the blog post and stories on the Shared Lives website, I was immediately overcome with emotion, and learning of these courageous and caring people, prompted me to question myself even more, how could I not know about this amazing work before today?

After meeting with their communications team, we began to organise a schedule that would allow me to fit my volunteering around my constantly differing work pattern. I remember my first day so vividly, I was so scared to mess anything up, not because I was afraid of landing in trouble, but because I knew how important this charity was to many people, I didn’t want to let them or myself down. But all that fear evaporated when I entered the office and was welcomed by everyone with open arms, I instantly felt like I was a part of something that was striving towards a greater good, and thus felt even more compelled to deliver the greatest work possible.

Tasks varied from week to week, from inputting members’ satisfaction surveys from paper to the computer, to transcribing interviews and developing a Google Analytics report about their website, all were completely new territory for me, but that didn’t stop or deter me. I felt compelled to do these things as I was now a part of the Shared Lives Plus community and wanted to help the people I had read about. However, I must admit that my favourite activity was writing some of the members’ stories for the blog and social media platforms, as I was in touch with people who had inspired me to volunteer, and in turn I hope I helped inspire others to do the same.

The more I learnt about Shared Lives Plus and amazing people that were a part of it, the more I enjoyed coming into the office, for the first time in a long time I felt as if I was doing something worthwhile, something that mattered to others. The work that employees and carers do for this charity is indescribable, and it is so apparent from their dedication and conviction, that each and every member loves what they do, which in turn filled my heart with so much love. And now that I’ve learnt about adult social care, I find myself telling my friends about it, any chance I can get.

My six months with Shared Lives came and went with the blink of an eye, but the lessons I learnt from this experience will stay with me for the rest of my life. This amazing charity has taught me so much, and I just hope that I can take what I have learnt and inspire others to do the same. So if you’re reading this and questioning whether or not you should volunteer at your local scheme, all I can say is DO IT! Because I promise, you won’t regret a single thing and it will be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have.

If you’ve been inspired by James and would like to volunteer in our communications team for experience in social media, film, data analytics, writing, interviews, or any other part of our charity, please get in touch with phoebe@sharedlivesplus.org.uk 0151 227 3499 – we are always looking for volunteers for 1 day or more a week, expenses paid.