My first experience being a volunteer on the Freedom Programme I think I was more nervous than the women attending. It was eye -opening listening as they shared their experiences, there were lots of tears but lots of laughter to. In that first session something changed in me and I could not wait to experience more. The next sessions followed and I sat and listened , I was a welcoming face each week in the training room and seeing the women relax when they saw a familiar face made me feel like I was doing something good. I have volunteered on many Freedom Programmes over the months and my experience and skills have developed with each session. I am confident in giving support one on one and have had the opportunity to facilitate some sessions myself. I would like to think I have made a difference; I know it has definitely made a difference in my life. I will never tire of seeing the difference in the women at the end of the programme to when they first walk in. It is such a transformation to see and I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of it.

 

The Recovery Toolkit came next, as a follow-on programme from The Freedom Programme. I was excited and so were the women they had built friendships on the Freedom Programme and were ready to start on their recovery. Watching women who have shared the most awful experiences encourage and support each other is so empowering. It’s hard to describe the feeling after sessions, I often joke I feel like a service user as I get so much from the sessions myself. Like with The Freedom programme you’re watching people change weekly in front of your eyes and it’s so special.

 

The increase in self-esteem and resilience in the women now they had completed both programmes was undeniable, there was no stopping them “What next they asked?” and I felt the same. Along with the women I had met on the programmes we started ACE’S Toolkit. I had never heard of ACE’s; it was a huge learning experience and I found it fascinating. As a parent myself there were many things taught during these sessions, I was able to apply to my own personal life. All the programmes offer such difference things, it is a journey for everyone involved.

 

This a small part of my volunteering experience. Volunteering with Women’s Aid RCT is like a never-ending opportunity of learning and developing. There is something for everyone. I love that no one day is the same I can be in group, supporting one to one, offering telephone support or developing my office skills. Working with adults and children it is all different but all enriching and full of learning. The training and support I have had has been nothing short of amazing. It has been life changing, the experience I have gained so far has led me to understand what I really want to do with my life. The staff have all built me up the way they do with service users, I feel like I am part of a community. I am dedicated to learning as much as possible, volunteering has given me the confidence to study further. I owe all that have been involved in my experience so far and I hope I can make a difference to people’s lives the way you all have to mine.