Volunteers’ Week is from 1st – 7th June 2018. In honour of the work volunteers at Forward do, Selena, who is now our Recovery Support Manager, reflects on her journey since starting with us as a volunteer in 2008.
I am a Recovery Support Manager for The Forward Trust but I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for my volunteering experience with what was then known as the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPt). I first signed up to be a Volunteer in 2008 after completing a Psychology degree and having my first child. At the time, I was struggling to find any paid work as an assistant psychologist and a careers advisor at my university pointed me in the direction of Forward.
As well as not knowing what to expect, I was nervous about attending an interview at the head office because I did not have a lot of experience with interviews. Soon after, I was invited to attend induction training on topics such as boundaries and confidentiality whilst on training I also had the chance to learn more about the staff and their roles.
I was first asked to help at the Graduate Reunion in October 2008. I found this event incredibly emotive, and it gave me a really good first impression of what Forward was really about and how I could potentially have an impact on people’s lives. I was particularly keen on volunteering in a prison at the time and the Volunteer Coordinator was really supportive in trying to find me a prison placement and identified that I would be most suitable to volunteer with what was then known as the Counselling, Assessment, Referral, Advice and Throughcare (CARAT) team. I started volunteering at HMP Highdown with the CARAT team 3 days a week. Despite how busy things were for the team, they still found time for me to shadow them and learn how to do assessments with clients so that I could eventually be left to work with clients by myself on the wings.
Because of my real desire to help people with substance misuse issues, I continued to volunteer and the next prison I volunteered in was Coldingley in 2010. Before starting, I had to complete some introductory skills set training at head office. The training itself encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone – I gradually grew in confidence and participated in group discussions and made many friends.
After a year of volunteering at Coldingley, I applied for a full time paid role as a CARAT worker and I got the job. All of my hard work volunteering had paid off. After two years as a CARAT worker I moved to become a Recovery Support Worker. I worked for four years in this role gaining a lot of experience working with clients in prison and in the community. It highlighted the challenges our clients often face after leaving prison which inspired me to want to find creative solutions to help them.
In 2017, I became a Deputy Recovery Support Manager which allowed me to put my creative ideas into action. Since then, I have progressed to the role of Recovery Support Manager. I never dreamt of being a manager as I never thought that I would have the skills or confidence to achieve this. Volunteering really helped me on this journey because it helped me gain the confidence to believe in myself.
I am really grateful to the volunteering department as I would not be where I am today if it was not for them. Volunteering helped me find certainty in my previously uncertain career path. I enjoyed volunteering with Forward as it gave me the drive to keep wanting to support clients, as well as the charity as a whole.