I never imagined myself volunteering

This blog has been contributed by Kevin, a volunteer with Victim Support Scotland in West Lothian for our Volunteers' Week blog. You may have seen Kevin on STV during Victims' Week.

6 June, 2016

I never really imagined that at any point in my life I would be volunteering for a charity and I certainly wouldn’t have ever thought I would be volunteering for Victim Support, to be honest before I became a victim of crime I never even knew they existed. I think there’s a stereotype of people who volunteer and do charity work and I certainly don’t believe I fit that image.

I’ve been volunteering with Victim Support for around 3 years now and I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every minute of the experience and have learned so much about myself, humankind and the world in which we live in. Enjoy might be the wrong term to use as sometimes you are seeing people at their lowest and hearing some horrific stories but there is this immense feeling of pride when you see the difference in the person you are supporting and you see them getting their confidence back in life, society and themselves.

I decided to become a volunteer with Victim Support as I had been a victim of a violent crime myself and Victim support were there for me when I needed them and I wanted to give a bit back to the charity. Due to being attacked I suffered from a condition called Post traumatic stress disorder and I had to undergo cognitive behavioural therapy sessions with a psychologist and one of the things that she advised me to do was to give a little back to the world as this in turn would help me boost my self-esteem and in turn help to ease the depressive thoughts that I was enduring and it certainly has.

What I really like about volunteering with Victim Support is that at no point have I felt alone or unsupported. The training I have received has been excellent and the support from both my local office where I am based and the national centre has been brilliant. I’ve never at any point felt out of my depth. You come out of your basic training and you feel confident that you have the skills and knowledge that are required to do the role.

I enjoy the variety that comes with being a Victim Support volunteer you deal with a wide range of cases and a wide range of people from all walks of life. You also get the occasional free cup of tea and a biscuit which is handy when you’re a student like I am. In all seriousness though sometimes that cup of tea with that person you are supporting makes a massive difference to their thought process, their day and their life in general. I know from my own personal experience of being a victim that isn’t easy to open up to friends and family. I found it easier to talk to the volunteer who was supporting me, they weren’t there to judge me and it also helped that I knew what I told them remained confidential within the organisation.

Volunteering with Victim Support has genuinely played a part in turning my life around and giving me so many useful life and work related skills. I’m currently studying Psychology at University and I believe the experience I’ve gained with Victim support will only be of benefit when I graduate.

The past few months of my life have been incredible for me and Victim Support has played a massive part in this. I answered a post on the Victim Support Facebook page one day looking for someone who had been the victim of crime and was willing to tell their story which could then be used during Victims week. I openly blog about my PTSD and I am passionate about Victim Support and the amazing work that everybody within the organisation does and I was desperate to play my part so I replied to the post, little did I imagine that I would end up being on the TV and receiving a nomination from Victim Support as their charity champion for The Scottish Charity awards.

I was delighted to be giving the opportunity to speak as both a person affected by crime and also as a volunteer. I’m not going to lie it was one of the most nerve racking experiences I’ve ever went through but at the same time was such an amazing and humbling experience. I was determined to try and express what it feels like to be a victim of crime and give people an understanding of all the emotions and turmoil that goes with it. I also wanted to raise as much awareness as possible of our great charity. Most importantly I didn’t want to give my mates the pleasure of me making a fool of myself on national telly. Going by all the kind words and well wishes I’ve had I think I achieved all of this.

It was amazing the response the television appearance with Susan had both for me personally and for Victim Support. People were phoning looking for Support on the back of “seeing that laddie on the telly” and I can’t tell you how great that feels. We were sitting in the studio waiting to film and we knew if we could reach one person it was all worthwhile.

My nomination meant so much to me, I was disappointed not to make the final as it would have giving me to chance to raise more awareness of Victim Support and the work we do but simply being nominated was a reminder of how far I have come. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for Victim Support and Volunteering with them. I’m hoping to do more for the organisation this year in terms of raising awareness and funds but I’m also looking forward to taking as many office appointments and home visits as I can too and not just for the free tea. You make a real difference as Victim Support volunteer and it doesn’t take a great deal to do so, just a few hours of your time and the ability to listen.