Volunteers' Week 2023 - Helen's story

Posted by Devon Partnership Trust in News on 1st June, 2023

Volunteers’ Week runs from Thursday 1 to Wednesday 7 June and is an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK through volunteering.

Pauline Champion, Early Career and Volunteer Co-ordinator, talks about meeting one of our volunteers, Helen Crowe, who has recently come to an end of her volunteering journey as she starts a new career with us.

Pauline says: "Looking back I remember the first time we met, I was visiting volunteers and introducing myself being new to the role as Volunteer Coordinator. We met on Russell Clinic during one of Helen’s volunteering sessions and Helen talked to me about the volunteer role of Befriender/Activity Assistant. I enjoyed listening to Helen talking enthusiastically about all the fabulous ideas she had for activities, including potting in the gardenand making Christmas cakes.

"We discussed what the future looked like and Helen was very clear in her objectives of wanting to work on Russell Clinic in a support role. Together we looked at how this could be achieved and Helen went away and accomplished this aim. I have no doubt Helen’s career in DPT has just begun and she will continue to develop and take opportunities as they come."

Helen, who volunteered with Devon Partnership NHS TrustWe spoke to Helen about her Volunteer to Career experience:

She said: "I had been self-employed for 10 years and trying to work out my next career move when I saw the advert for a Volunteer Activity Assistant on Russell Clinic, an adult rehabilitation ward at Wonford House.

"I had always been interested in working within adult mental health services and I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to see if the job and I were a good match. Although I got the job in December 2019, due to COVID I didn't start working on the ward until October 2020. I worked one morning a week, which allowed me to have another job outside of the NHS to pay my bills, shadowing the OT team and supporting them with planned activities and resident engagement.

"The team were really welcoming and patient with all my questions and queries, they made me feel part of the team from my first day there. As the weeks passed and my confidence and knowledge grew, I would suggest my own activities and respond to residents if they had a particular goal to achieve that I could help them with such as gardening, baking, seasonal craft, walking groups or self-care.

"I stayed on that ward for over two years until Pauline (Champion) suggested I take a placement elsewhere to expand my skill set. I requested a move to Jasmine Lodge, the Mother and Baby Unit in Exeter, and I started there in January 2023.

"Although I was a little apprehensive, this was a great move for me as I was getting experience of working with a different client group who had very different needs and skills. I used a lot of the same activity ideas that I had used before, but tailored them to the residents there. The team, again, were welcoming and kind, and I could turn to them at any point if I had any queries. It was while I was working there that a Recovery Support Worker (RSW) position was advertised on Russell Clinic, and for the first time in years I was in a position, personally, where I could apply for a full-time post.

"Pauline supported me with my application and I got the job! I continued at Jasmine Lodge while all my checks were being completed and although I was sad to leave there as it had been such a short placement, I started my RSW role at the beginning of May. The team have been so welcoming and although I am used to patient engagement, there is a lot to the role that I am learning. Being a volunteer has enabled me to find my career path and I am so pleased that I applied to be a volunteer in 2019."

To find out more about volunteering and early careers, contact Pauline Champion, Early Career and Volunteer Co-ordinator on pauline.champion@nhs.net.