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Chiara's story

Chiara is a dementia adviser at the Alzheimer’s Society in Birmingham, where she provides emotional support and practical guidance to people with dementia, their families and professional care givers. It’s a position she started in 2021, and she credits volunteering as helping her secure the role, building her confidence and expanding her skills.

In 2019, while studying for her PHD, Chiara started volunteering at Royal Voluntary Service’s Yardley Activity Group in Birmingham. The group supports members of the local community living with early and moderate stages of dementia. Chiara’s role included running physical activities such as seated Zumba, as well as arts and crafts activities and socialising with group members. When the pandemic struck, Chiara continued to volunteer, making regular social calls to members and their carers.

Chiara has now completed her PHD, and despite working full time, continues to volunteer with Royal Voluntary Service when she is able to, supporting the charity’s activity groups in West Heath and Selly Oak.

"The main academic focus of my PHD was dementia care. However, I’d never spoken or worked with anyone with dementia and my personal experience was very limited. While it wasn’t a requirement for my studies, I thought volunteering to gain some hands-on experience might prove useful to my research.

"I started volunteering with Royal Voluntary Service in 2019, and it amplified my interest in dementia and desire to work in career supporting those living with the condition and their families.

"Seeing an opportunity with the Alzheimer’s Society for a dementia adviser, I applied. In my application and subsequent interview, I was able to talk about my volunteering role and hands-on experience, which definitely helped me secure the position. I was also able to add the groups' service manager, Helen to my list of referees.

"Volunteering proved a great way to boost my CV and skills and can open doors into an area you may be interested in working in. I’ve also become a much more confident person because of it.

"Although I’m now working full-time, I still volunteer when I can, and enjoy popping into the activity groups to catch up with everybody."