Jane’s story of volunteering
Jane’s story of volunteering with Victim Support Scotland
Jane began volunteering with Victim Support Scotland after health considerations meant taking early retirement from a corporate career.
It took me a long time to recover after my surgery and I was thinking of ways to build myself up, physically and mentally. I was looking too much inward and I wanted to look outward a bit and I thought, ‘what can I do?’ I need some purpose, I need to give something back.’
I’ve been very fortunate throughout my life and I felt the need to do something to help other people. So I just dug about and spoke to other people and Victim Support Scotland came up in conversation. And I thought, ‘I like the sound of that.’
Jane volunteers in the Victim Support Scotland Edinburgh office, providing practical and emotional support to people affected by a wide range of crime, within telephone and face-to-face office appointments.
As a volunteer you’re allocated a person who wants to get support, whether it’s practical support, emotional support, information about their situation, or other organisations that can help them beyond victim support.
And to listen to them, that’s the main thing.
The thing I found with every appointment, whether it’s telephone or office based, you get a little information maybe about how they have been referred, maybe a little bit of information about their situation. But you never really know until you are on the call or in the meeting, how it’s going to go. So that’s really interesting, and you learn to adapt and it’s a wee bit unpredictable at times. And you’ve just got to go in and be open and friendly and willing to listen, and hopefully gain the person’s trust over time.
It can take time to get people to open up. I try to listen to them, re-play back to them what I have heard so that they know they are being actively listened to. I try and help them with their thought processes, and getting support, through the difficult situations that they are in.
For example, I’ve been supporting one individual for some months, and seeing their progress is so rewarding.
Their experience was affecting their physical health, their mental health, their family life, every aspect of their life. And as they’ve come in and we’ve talked more, sometimes things have been going better, sometimes things have been going worse. But this individual is improving. I can see their confidence is coming back a bit, they are just more what they are normally like. To see that progression is what I really like.
What do you like the most about volunteering?
I like to be able to listen to people and form a relationship with them and hopefully get them to trust me and open up to me, and help them and see them progress. You’re dealing with people at very difficult times in their life.
Whether it’s the most difficult time or not you don’t know, but they are in the aftermath of crime, and they are not in a good place. It’s a privilege to be able to speak to people and to listen to them and to hear what they’ve gone through. To have them share it with you. I also enjoy from my own perspective being part of a team – I miss that from work.
Everyone at the office is lovely. You go in, you feel you are part of a worthwhile cause. You are doing something good, it’s a nice sort of community feeling.
I’ve never stepped out of the office door without thinking ‘that was a useful afternoon, that was a good use of my time today’.
It's a privilege to be able to speak to people and to listen to them and to hear what they’ve gone through. To have them share it with you
What would you say to other people considering volunteering for Victim Support Scotland?
I would say absolutely volunteer, no matter what stage of your life you are at. Without volunteers, where would charities such as Victim Support Scotland be?
Volunteers are needed by charities, we’re needed by the service users and it’s a good thing to do for yourself.
It builds your confidence, it builds your people skills, there’s loads of modules, loads of different training you can do. Also, the sense of wellbeing it gives you. The fact that you’re able to offer yourself to help people at a very difficult time in their lives, be there for them, and to support them, and to help them pick through their thoughts and work out how they are going to take their lives forward from the point they are at.
I think it’s a really good thing to do. Victim Support Scotland is a really nice place, it’s a really nice organisation.
You always feel that your participation has been appreciated. You never leave the office without someone saying thanks very much for what you’ve done this afternoon. You are appreciated by the service users and the staff. Everybody is nice and it’s a really good community to be involved with.
To find out more about applying to become a volunteer with Victim Support Scotland, click here.