How to help us Volunteering Interactive freedom programme - a volunteers experience 1st session I've been here before, I've been here for me, but this time it's a little different. This time I'm a volunteer. We're all on lockdown due to covid-19, so the sessions are taking place in different surroundings- our homes, via video calling, which is most definitely a strange one at the best of times let alone with everything that's going on around us. But it was great, everyone seemed to find it easier to speak in the comfort of their own homes rather than in a room with strangers staring back at you for what can sometimes feel like an eternity and cause your heart rate to want to jump out of the nearest window. It was really insightful hearing their voices speak out about what they've been through and for some, still going through. But they're here, reaching out which is by far the biggest and bravest step yet. 2nd session It was absolutely amazing to see women returning for a second session, and that technology hadn't put them off. Everyone definitely seemed more at ease with each other as well as themselves, and it was beautiful to see women lift each other up with compliments without there being any hidden agenda behind it. Listening to their words can sometimes make me feel a bit guilty, which may be a bit stupid, it makes me feel guilty because I'm not in the same position as them as I once was, I feel like I'm way in front, which I guess on the other hand is good, because they get to see and hear how far I've come and I want them to believe that they can do that too and be a story for someone else. With a little support life will eventually improve which in a way it already is just by returning, speaking out, listening, or just having a really good cry. 3rd session Another productive session this evening with all kinds of contributions left, right and centre. It really does make my heart burst seeing these awesome women tell their story whether it brings tears or laughter to the group. You can see the similarities with some of the women which without you even knowing, creates a bond, just knowing that you're not on your own and that you're stronger than what you give yourself credit for is an amazing feeling and should never be taken for granted. 4th session If I'm completely honest, this evening was a tough one, listening to the awful things that these women have had to endure in their lives would make anyone feel compassion and empathy towards them. Having myself gone through trauma it's hard for it to not strike a nerve. But I like to think that they can see that I have (in time) overcome the things in my past that I blamed myself for, and I'm absolutely not to blame and neither are they. It's as if they're a bit more relieved to know that I totally get where they're coming from and that I'm not just someone who thinks she's a bit of a know it all who enjoys the sound of her own voice. I never want to take anything away from these women to make it "all about me" because this is THEIR TIME TO SPEAK UP AS SURVIVORS! 5th session It was the last session of the freedom programme this evening and it was safe to say that there was a look of relief from the women when they were told that they'd be continuing, as a group, for some confidence building before moving straight on to the recovery toolkit stage. Which is great as they're moving on together and this may be their only chance to share their stories- families may not know and friends may not even know the extent of the abuse that's been inflicted on to them and they themselves may not think they're gaining anything from this, but it's a huge step in their lives. As from my own experience you don't want 'that look' from people you care about, the look staring back at you which speaks volumes, the look that makes them feel sorry for you when all you want to do is offload. So, it's been a massive privilege to get this chance and be the person to listen with no judgment.