Welcome to MyVolunteering, the new website from Volunteer Edinburgh’s Health and Employability Team.

This is a project created and delivered by our amazing team of volunteer ambassadors who have interviewed, transcribed and edited a wide range of volunteering stories for you to read, listen to and watch.

To get started search through our Story Tree below or alternatively visit the explore page to access one of our many volunteering stories.

If you would like to learn more about our project please visit the about page.

Welcome

Welcome to MyVolunteering, the new website from Volunteer Edinburgh’s Health and Employability Team.

This is a project created and delivered by our amazing team of volunteer ambassadors who have interviewed, transcribed and edited a wide range of volunteering stories for you to read, listen to and watch.

To get started search through our Story Tree below or alternatively visit the explore page to access one of our many volunteering stories.

If you would like to learn more about our project please visit the about page.

Sarah Cleary Health and Employability Service Manager, Volunteer Edinburgh


Story Tree
AudioGraphicsPhotosFilmQuotesPoemsStoriesArticles

Audio

Jo McFarlane is a poet who has lived in Edinburgh all her life and studied languages and philosophy, then a postgraduate degree in Community Education at the University of Edinburgh. Here Jo reads her poem 'Held':

Jo has worked in various voluntary sector roles, mainly in the field of advocacy, and has published several collections of poetry, articles and essays. The themes she writes about include creativity, volunteering, spirituality, social justice, diversity, mental health and childhood trauma – drawing on her own experience of these – as well as comic verse and observational pieces on everything under the moon. Jo is regularly invited to give presentations and perform her poems at conferences and workshops including several recitals at the Scottish Parliament.

She has been referred to as ‘the poet laureate of recovery’ and ‘one of the most influential women in mental health in Scotland today’. Her memoir Skydiving for Beginners: A Journey of Recovery and Hope is published by the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance.

We are privileged to have Jo on our volunteering stories team. Not only has she helped us edit many stories, and shared her own story but she has also very kindly dedicated some poems to us to showcase on this site and has given us permission to share some of her other poems that you can read or listen to by clicking on the button below.

You can listen to more audio files about volunteering by clicking on the button below.

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Graphics

In 2005 a young graphics student was referred to Volunteer Edinburgh by his occupational therapist. He was incredibly anxious and paranoid. They thought volunteering might help build his confidence but he could only manage to be in the office for 15 minutes at most and couldn’t look us in the eye. 14 years later that same volunteer created a graphic illustration of his volunteering journey.

The graphic illustration is in two parts. Click on the thumbnails below for versions you can enlarge.

A picture is worth a 1000 words. If you have a picture or a doodle about your volunteering you would happily share please get in touch with us via the contact form at the bottom of the homepage.

Click on the button below to view some of the doodles and graphics volunteers and staff have created for us.

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Photos

Little did we know back in January 2018, when we first collected in the branches from Arthurs Seat and carefully attached paper cherry blossom that one year on the tree would have passed through so many hands and given life to so many thoughts and ideas. The branches started of at an event at Northfield and Willowbrae when local residents used the Chinese New Year to celebrate the coming together of local projects, schools, older people and businesses to look at how they could work together to tackle loneliness in the area. The year was to be the year of the dog (a year celebrating honesty, friendliness, faithfulness, loyalty and responsibility). The first leaves to grow on the tree were covered in messages from local residents including their hopes and dreams for the area and what they loved about it.After this initial event the tree was transplanted to the Chinese School in Edinburgh where it took centre stage in their New Year celebrations.

Fast forward to October 2018 when Volunteer Edinburgh gave the tree a new lease of life and used it to hang 150 volunteering quotes from its branches in recognition of the life changing impact volunteering can have on people’s lives and to mark Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council (EVOC) turning 150 years old. Click on one of the photos below to view a larger version.

You can view more photos about volunteering by clicking on the button below.

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Film

Here is our short film Volunteering Changes Lives created to celebrate 30 years’ work by Volunteer Edinburgh's Health and Wellbeing Team. It is an inspiring and powerful account of the life-changing impact of volunteering.

Seven individuals describe how volunteering has supported their journey of recovery by telling their stories and sharing their experiences of how volunteering has changed their lives. They talk of how they have overcome the barriers and discrimination which accompany mental illness and disability. In addition it celebrates the valuable contribution volunteers make to the social fabric and wellbeing of the city.

If you have any films about volunteering that you would like to share with us and happy for us to showcase here please get in touch with us using the contact form at the bottom of the homepage.

You can watch more films about volunteering by clicking on the button below.

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Quotes

Welcome to our ongoing series of inspirational quotes from the Health and Employability team at Volunteer Edinburgh. These are quotes from volunteers, volunteer managers, support workers and relatives highlighting the value of volunteering. Here is a selection of quotes from volunteers:

Volunteering has opened up a whole new way of life for me. It has given me a stronger sense of identity, of belonging in my community, a sense of worth and a sense of pride in what I have accomplished.
I had become very isolated. Although I was working I needed to do something for me and prove to myself that I had something to offer.
Before I started volunteering I was pretty down as I hated my work - my experience of volunteering showed me that I was capable of doing more with my life and gave me a better view of choices I had in my life.
I have some excellent friends and support that I would never have had, had I not become a volunteer.
Because of my volunteering I learned different ways of self-managing my condition and although I’ve had a few serious blips I’ve managed to keep out of hospital as a result.
I’ve started to heal from the inside out, rather than plaster over the cracks of the latest crisis. I get excited about life in a good way. Even my wardrobe is more colourful.

If you or someone you know would like to share their inspirational quote with us please get in touch using the contact form at the bottom of the homepage.

You can read more quotes about volunteering by clicking on the button below.

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Poems

Jo McFarlane is a poet who has lived in Edinburgh all her life and studied languages and philosophy, then a postgraduate degree in Community Education at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked in various voluntary sector roles, mainly in the field of advocacy, and has published several collections of poetry, articles and essays. The themes she writes about include creativity, volunteering, spirituality, social justice, diversity, mental health and childhood trauma – drawing on her own experience of these – as well as comic verse and observational pieces on everything under the moon. Jo is regularly invited to give presentations and perform her poems at conferences and workshops including several recitals at the Scottish Parliament.

She has been referred to as ‘the poet laureate of recovery’ and ‘one of the most influential women in mental health in Scotland today’. Her memoir Skydiving for Beginners: a journey of recovery and hope is published by the Scottish Independent Advocacy Alliance.

We are privileged to have Jo on our volunteering stories team. Not only has she helped us edit many stories, and shared her own story but she has also very kindly dedicated a poem to us read here and has given us permission to share some of her other poems that you can read by clicking on the button below.

Returning Joy
The days I worked for nothing
but the joy
of having made a difference
were the happiest of my life.

The purpose which propelled me
to get up each day, the knowledge
I was part of something big,
however small.

And though I didn’t know it then,
the little acts of kindness I received
would stay with me
for all these years to come:

The homeless man who taught me
that a smile could melt the harshest winter,
or the colleague in the busy office
who pretended not to notice
that I couldn’t work
without a stress ball in my hand;
the skills I gleaned
from other people’s patience
as they filtered good from my mistakes.

I learnt so many things
that far outweigh the ticks on my C.V

I learnt the greatest value
of my volunteering
was the joy it brought to me

Jo McFarlane
Volunteer and Poet

You can read more poems about volunteering by clicking on the button below.

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Stories

Our volunteer case studies team have dedicated many hours of their time interviewing, transcribing and editing a wide range of volunteer case studies. Some of which can be found here. Along with a few accounts from Volunteer Mangers and family members who have taken the time to share their thoughts on the value of volunteering for those they support and care for.

Marion Remade
For Marion, a volunteer at Health in Mind’s Information Resource Centre and Rediscover Befriending Service, volunteering has been a “life-changing” experience. “I had been out of work for quite a long time with mental ill health and my occupational therapist (OT) suggested that volunteering would be a great way to re-integrate me in to society. I was quite frightened at first by the idea but I was willing to do anything that would help with my recovery. My OT brought me in to see Sarah Cleary at the Volunteer Centre and we had a nice chat about what I could do. I was completely lacking in confidence and self-esteem and didn’t see myself as having many skills but they encouraged me to think about what I could do and nurtured me in the direction of Health in Mind.

Marion explains her role: “For the Information Resource Centre my job is to maintain and update the resources we have by doing internet research and re-cataloguing the library. We have lots of books and self-help materials related to wellbeing and recovery which clients and professionals can access by booking an appointment or coming in to one of our regular drop-in sessions. We also re-direct people to our website and other useful resources. Although my supervisor checks in with me from time to time I am completely trusted to organise the resources as I see fit. There is tremendous camaraderie and mutual support among our team of volunteers, all of whom have an interest in mental health and love what we do. One of the highlights for me was receiving a personal letter of thanks from someone who had used the service to say how helpful I had been.”

Within the Rediscover Befriending Service Marion is first point of contact for inquiries from prospective volunteers. “I give them the right application form and guidance on how to fill it in. The staff have shown their faith in me to do a good job by giving me sole responsibility for this task. I feel very protective of new volunteers who come in. I feel like I’m handling a basket of chicks which I have to keep corralled and motivated till the next training course starts. Once trained, I then hand them over and they’re off befriending. Recently I had a chat with a former user of the service who then felt ready to volunteer as a befriender. It is very rewarding to see people grow.”

But it hasn’t all been plain-sailing. “When I started I felt very intimidated about just going in to the building. For the first 6 months I actually felt sick because I was so nervous about what I was going to come up against. But gradually, as my health and confidence improved, I overcame that. Everyone here is so friendly and welcoming when I come in. Learning how to operate the equipment can be intimidating too. We have an enormous copier/scanner that has so many buttons you don’t know where to start. But there is always someone who can help.

For Marion the benefits of volunteering far outweigh the challenges. “It has given me a structure to the week. There would otherwise still be times when I’d feel I had nothing to get up for. That is why it is so great they are willing to have me here four part days a week. My confidence has improved massively, as well as my IT skills. I have more self-belief and my friends all notice a change in me. Now I am willing to go out and socialise at night because I can talk about my day. I have also made some wonderful new friends through Health in Mind. Volunteering isn’t just about helping others. You are giving yourself an opportunity for personal growth and to meet people you otherwise would not.” Marion’s hard work and positive attitude earned her an Inspiring Volunteer Award from the Lord Provost last year – a fitting endorsement for such heroic effort!

You can read more stories about volunteering by clicking on the button below.

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Articles

We have a long history of partnering up with similar projects elsewhere in the UK and overseas. This section is dedicated to the stories of their volunteers. If you run a similar project and we are not already in touch with you we would love to hear from you so please do get in touch using the contact form at the bottom of the homepage.

You can view more articles about volunteering by clicking on the button below.

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If you have something to say, a quote, a poem, a picture you would like to share, or maybe even a song then we would love to hear from you. Just complete the contact form below and we will be in touch.
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