Community First offers a variety of volunteering services including a website hosting a range of volunteer opportunities (www.volunteerwessex.org), Business Volunteering and Supported Volunteering. Supported Volunteer Co-ordinator, Ina Allum, helps those with support needs to find individual opportunities as well as offering a team volunteering option called Positive Pathways. Positive Pathways follows on from the very successful V Team project. Members have a wide range of support needs such as recovering mental health, long term unemployed who lack confidence, and mild learning difficulties. Members are referred by mental health services, the Department for Work and Pensions, and other support services. The team carry out a range of tasks within the local community such as befriending and gardening in sheltered housing, conservation work and painting of community venues. The aim of Positive Pathways is to offer a supportive volunteering environment until members feel confident enough to volunteer alone or find employment. Geraldine Swain (pictured right) was a member of the V Team for two years during which time she also took on individual volunteering roles and eventually found employment with Radian Housing who she had also been volunteering for. Geri tells her story:
“I started volunteering with the Community First V Team, a team of supported volunteers. Being a member of the V Team changed my life. It helped me gain confidence, overcome barriers and improved my self-esteem. Volunteering is an opportunity to socialise, gain experience and learn new skills. For me it led to training and employment. While with the V team I started to undertake other voluntary roles, helping the Rowans Hospice and also mentoring unemployed residents for Radian Housing and some administration work. I worked with Radian’s Employment Support and Training Team (EST) as a volunteer initially. I was then offered casual work with the team, which I completed under the ‘Permitted Work’ scheme.
Both Janet and Ina (from Community First) supported and encouraged me with my independent volunteer role and through the process of applying for permitted work and my apprenticeship.
In 2016 I completed my Level 3 Business Administration Apprenticeship with the Radian EST Team. I also gained Level 3 Advice and Guidance. I am now studying for my Level 4 Business Administration with Radian and am enjoying the challenge of further qualifications. I left school at 16 and it has been a lifelong ambition to complete further education.