“Five years ago I decided to embark on a new career journey into social work. This was a big change from my role as a manager in the restaurant and bar industry. I decided to volunteer with Volunteering Matters because of their work with Southend children’s social care as the Volunteers Supporting Families project. I knew this would give me the opportunity to support some of the area’s most vulnerable families.

Initially, it can be quite overwhelming to walk into families’ lives where there are complex underlying issues. However, the support from the Volunteering Matters team and other volunteers means you are never alone.

If you can build a positive working relationship with the family, and offer non-judgemental practical advice, they warm to you and show they appreciate having someone who listens to them. This support helps the parents make sense of their problems and ultimately improve their situations. It is so rewarding to help families see ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ so to speak.

The role involves offering practical parenting skills e.g. setting routines with the children, planning healthy meals or setting boundaries in the home. Or you may offer advice on life skills including budgeting, managing bills or keeping the home clean and tidy, which for many families can be challenging when they are dealing with other problems.

For me, the job satisfaction I gained through volunteering encouraged me to commit to a three year BA Hons Social Work degree. Throughout my degree I continued to volunteer, and this complemented the skills and knowledge I developed.

I juggled university life, work placements, being a mum and running a home as a single parent whilst achieving a final grade mark I was proud of. I cannot speak more highly of Volunteering Matters to anyone interested in volunteering. Now, as a qualified social worker, I shall continue to promote their services to professionals I work with.”