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Geoffrey's story

Geoffrey has been volunteering in retail settings for over 10 years, including with his local charity shops and in Royal Voluntary Service’s hospital shops and cafés. In 2019, his voluntary role with the charity led to him securing paid work with Royal Voluntary Service, after his manager had been observing his skills, experience and confidence coming on ‘leaps and bounds’.

Geoffrey credits his volunteering for being the best thing he’s done to support his mental health and confidence and is so eager to continue reaping the benefits, that he still volunteers alongside his paid role.

"I started volunteering in 2012 and I did so well with it. I did all of my online training courses with Royal Voluntary Service to help me with my role there, and was also volunteering with Oxfam and other charity shops. All of that has helped me to get experience in the retail space, and in 2019 I was asked to apply and interview for a part-time paid job as Retail Service Assistant for Royal Voluntary Service in the Weston General Hospital café and shop.

"In the interview I was able to talk about the skills and experience I had gained from my volunteering that I could bring to the role, and I was over the moon to receive the job. Volunteering has been helpful to me because it has given me a good feeling about myself, and I can say I’m going out to work like other people. It’s done me proud.

"Volunteering has given me both practical and softer skills that I think are helpful for employability. It has helped my communication and social skills as I’m always interacting with people and I’m able to make conversations with people. I also work alongside others in a team too. You find that you get better at things and knowing what to do, using your initiative.

"Then there are the more retail-specific skills that volunteering has helped me build. It’s helped me to get better at using a till, serving customers, making hot drinks and preparing snacks, stock taking, cashing up, and dealing with invoices and deliveries. Most things are computerised now and in the past I was always worried sick about using computers, but volunteering is one of the ways I’ve gotten better at that. The more I did it, the better I got and the more confidence I gained.   

"When I signed up to volunteer, I did hope it would boost my confidence, and it really has. I’ve had to cope with mental health problems for decades and decades and I’ve found volunteering more help than anything else, I have gained so much from it, including leading me into paid employment.

"I would say if you are in a rut in your work and you’re not happy, or if you’re having difficulty finding a job, and you are able to volunteer, do so. The more you stick at it, the better you get, and you can gain so much from it."