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BLOG: volunteering opens doors

When we are extolling the benefits of volunteering with St Luke’s, we often focus on the opportunity to gain new skills and hence be more attractive to employers, plus the well-being boost volunteering in the community can bring.

So, it was with great pride and delight that we heard about two people, Mia Ward-Edwards and Claire Squires, who have recently made the transition from volunteers to members of staff right here with St Luke’s, after they proved themselves such great assets and shone in their job interviews.

At Turnchapel, where she is a familiar face at our Driftwood Café and on the wards, Mia has gone from volunteer to paid member of staff with the Catering team. For the 20-year-old, who was living with anxiety so severe it resulted in panic attacks and fits – a condition that started while studying for her A levels – taking the step of joining as a volunteer was in itself understandably a challenge. However, with the support of both her employment advisor and staff at St Luke’s, plus some prior experience in the catering industry, she went from strength to strength and has recently secured 16 hours of paid employment per week with our charity.

As well as serving in the café, Mia’s role includes helping with food preparation and stock-taking, as well as providing a catering service to patients on the wards.

She said: “The experience I gained as a volunteer has been so valuable and I’m thrilled to now be a staff member on the team. Everyone has made me feel safe and calm, and I love that my role has a positive impact on our patients, too. Volunteering has really boosted my confidence and helped me overcome my anxiety, and I’m excited that I will also be mentoring new volunteers who might also be able to go on to paid employment.

“Before I started volunteering, I thought I would never be able to work again, but now I’m looking forward to my first pay packet!”

Meanwhile Claire – who volunteered for 18 months in our charity shop near her home in Estover – has recently been appointed to the full-time post of Shop Assistant in our soon-to-be-launched pop-up charity store selling secondhand furniture at the former Toys ‘R’ Us building.

For Claire, who remembers the compassion St Luke’s showed when caring for her much-loved late mum, joining our charity as a volunteer was a natural move when she was looking for an opportunity to make a difference locally.

She said: “It all fell into place. I wanted to give something back and then the St Luke’s shop opened up right on my doorstep. It seemed like fate to me.”

While helping at Estover, Claire received the support and encouragement of Shop Manager Marie Young and gained her NVQ in retail and diploma in management. Alongside the on-the-job experience she gained in customer service there, this put her in a strong position to apply for the paid role she has recently started.

She said: “I loved working in the Estover shop and am so grateful for the experience and qualifications I gained. It’s so good that if the right opportunity comes up and you’re well suited to the role, St Luke’s will recruit from within. I’m really looking forward to using my experience of serving customers and replenishing stock in a brand new venture for St Luke’s. It’s really exciting!”

Learn more about volunteering opportunities at St Luke’s.