Ami's story: How I helped myself by helping others

"Volunteering is a great way to support your own physical and mental health."

Ami Smart discovered volunteering in one of our charity shops after a period of ill-health and credits it as helping her "rebuild herself".

"Until a couple of weeks ago, I was a volunteer at the Sue Ryder charity shop in Bedminster, Bristol. I worked there for about 9 months and I have absolutely loved it!

"It started as a way to support myself back to work, and to restore some routine and structure in my life. Following a spell of ill health, some much-needed rebuilding of self and managing the demands of being a (mature) student, I found myself out of work, but longing to fill that void in some way.

"As someone who loves vintage fashion, vinyl and bric-a-brac that looks like something your Nan would own, it seemed the obvious choice to volunteer in a charity shop! Sue Ryder is a charity that provides neurological care and support, which is a cause close to my heart, so this again seemed like a winning combo for me."

Discovering new skills

"When I started at Sue, I had lost my confidence more than I think I realised and, therefore, it took me a couple of attempts to actually take regular volunteering from an idea to a working reality.

"Luckily, the manager saw potential in me and, before I knew it, I was behind the till, in charge of the vintage and retro section, and the proud display cabinet dresser!

"I've had many volunteering roles over the years, and each time I've tried to find something outside of my comfort zone and something I haven't tried before.

"I haven't worked in retail before and so I had no idea that I could make a mannequin look like a 1950s pin-up or transform an ageing cabinet into a thing of beauty!"

"A stepping stone to a healthier, happier, more confident you"

"I can't recommend volunteering enough. Volunteering allows you to discover skills you never knew you had, and to give back to so many wonderful and worthwhile causes.

"It is a great way to support your own physical and mental health as it encourages you to concentrate on the things you can do rather than the things you can't. It's also another way to practise gratitude and to open the heart chakra.

"One of my favourite quotes is 'Life begins where your comfort zone ends'. Volunteering can be very much out of your comfort zone for many, but it really is where life can begin too.

"There are a wide range of opportunities out there, especially in a vibrant city like Bristol, so perhaps the next time you consider volunteering you should act on it. It may just be the stepping stone to a happier, healthier and more confident you!"

Interested in volunteering?

Check out our voluntary roles