How volunteering has helped me

In previous posts, I have explained all about my experiences of volunteering in a Sue Ryder charity shop, and I would now like to share how volunteering has helped me to transform my life. 

It would certainly be true to say that volunteering for Sue Ryder has changed my life a lot. Before I started volunteering, I was an incredibly shy person; I’ve always lacked self-confidence. I had very recently lost my Dad to cancer, he had stayed in Sue Ryder’s Duchess Of Kent House in Reading. Then I’d quit my university course, so I was at a low when I sent a letter to the Sue Ryder shop in Emmer Green in Reading asking if I could volunteer there. Wonderfully, they were keen to have me.

At first I was afraid...

Shop work was totally new to me at the time and I was terrified. The prospect of talking to strangers petrified me, but I was incredibly lucky that the team in the shop were amazingly supportive and patient with me. 

When I started volunteering in April 2013, I was in the process of applying to university again to study Languages & Translation; however I was feeling very anxious having already dropped out of a primary education course. I enjoyed going into Sue Ryder two or more times a week - it made me feel as though my gap year had a purpose.

Even if I was feeling low, I would at least always leave the shop feeling a lot brighter and more positive. When I first started using the till, the manager used to give me a receipt at the end of the morning showing how much money I’d put through that morning and it would give me an enormous confidence boost. 

Making small talk

During the time I was volunteering I felt like a changed person. I could say “hello” to a customer when they walked into the shop which was a huge step for me and I was also able to make small talk with the customers too, something which usually would have absolutely terrified me.

Volunteering also makes me feel closer to my Dad, with him having spent time at Duchess Of Kent House. Volunteering for Sue Ryder always makes me feel like I’m giving something back to the staff there for my Dad. I was really close to my Dad and I think that he’d be proud of me for volunteering. 

Welcome back

Halfway through my first year at Swansea University, I was diagnosed with a condition called hypothyroidism. It was just after Christmas and I had spent my Christmas holidays volunteering at Sue Ryder as well which had meant a lot to me that they were willing to have me back.

The hypothyroidism made me feel constantly exhausted as well as really down, so I found myself returning home a lot. Every time I went home I ensured that I visited the Sue Ryder shop and it was lovely to be able to chat to everyone. They were really supportive of my condition when I returned to volunteer for some of the summer holidays too. When I found out that I didn’t do very well in my University exam results, again everyone there were willing to give me advice and support. It just means a lot to me that even though I’m a part-time volunteer at the moment, everyone in the shop still cares about me. It’s like being part of a huge family. 

Sue Ryder always say how their volunteers help to contribute to the life-changing work that they do, but the credit must go to the charity and the shops for being such a fantastic charity to volunteer for. It’s changed my life for the better. 

Get involved

Do you think volunteering would be good for you? We'd love to have you on our team. You can find out more information about what it's like to volunteer for Sue Ryder, frequently asked questions and our latest volunteer opportunities here.

Emily Maybanks
Emily Maybanks