I’ve been asked to write this blog giving a few thoughts on why I became a volunteer and how it benefits and shapes my life. First of should fill you in a little bit about my background. Ever since leaving school/college at 18, I’ve always worked. I had hoped to be able to go to university at 18 but due to family circumstances, I felt obligated to get a job and bring money into the family household. I worked continuously for the next 20-plus years working mainly in admin but changing career completely in my mid 30’s to train and qualify to become an NHS nurse. I worked as a nurse until I had an accident which ended not only my nursing career but my ability to hold down any form of job.
I went through what I call my ‘wilderness’ years, having to adjust to being disabled and the restrictions that came with my new circumstances as well as being unemployed for the first time in my life. It was roughly about this time my family became involved with a newly planted church where I stay. I had two young boys (aged 3 and 5) and I made a vow to myself, and them, that they wouldn’t grow up seeing their dad just sitting around ‘moping’ and doing nothing, so I started volunteering for the church. It was through good friends at the church that I got started on my ‘lived experience’ activism and adventure. I was put in touch with the Poverty Truth Community – PTC (Commission as it was then) and the rest, as they say, is history.
So, (at last, I hear you say) I come to ‘why I volunteer’. I’ve always been drawn towards activities and jobs where I helped or served my community (I started off working for 2 animal charities, then the Red Cross and, finally, the NHS). So at my core is a drive to serve. I feel it’s important for me to share what little experience and expertise I have of life for the general good of others and volunteering and as such, being involved with groups such as the APLE Collective and the PTC I am able to do this. I feel strongly compelled to fight against injustice and inequality/discrimination and the APLE Collective and PTC reflect my beliefs and give me a great opportunity to speak out against the very many inequalities and injustices that there are in the UK at the moment (unfortunately!).
Volunteering has now become a big part of my life and I honestly don’t know what I’d do with myself without it being there. Even during the Covid lockdowns volunteering gave me an opportunity to have my voice heard and it was a pivotal reason I was able to cope with a major health scare in my life.
So why should You volunteer? We each have our own reasons that would draw us to whatever branch of volunteering attracts us i.e. environmental (stock up on the superglue), anti-poverty, anti-racism, lgbtq+ etc) However, over the past 5 or so years I’ve been involved with the PTC and the past 2 years being involved with the APLE Collective I’ve discovered one thing. Volunteering to me is like a tree (bear with me on this – it’ll make sense I promise!). The reason for volunteering and the passion (ooh good word – I need to remember to use that in more blogs in the future) that drives you is the trunk of the tree but the opportunities and other groups you become involved with are like the roots – spreading out and becoming more and more widespread (told you it would make sense).
Remember way, way back at the start of this blog I mentioned the benefits of volunteering? For me, the greatest benefits I’ve gotten from volunteering are the friendships I’ve made and the total change to my life and outlook I have now are nothing sort of miraculous! When I think back to the way I was when I had my accident – I feel I am a totally different person – I now have a passion for life (insert the lyrics from ‘Lust for Life’ by Iggy Pop here if you’d like). I’ve been given so many opportunities to meet people from all walks of life and have visited places I never thought I would have – I feel as if I’ve been truly blessed. I am so proud to say that I now have friends from Land’s End to John O’Groats and I feel totally uplifted and inspired when we actually get to meet face-to-face instead of on Zoom.
But, the one greatest benefit and lesson I’ve learned through volunteering, especially with APLE, is that poverty, discrimination and inequality does not respect borders! Whether we live in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland or Wales (or anywhere in the world for that matter) we are all brothers and sisters and have a responsibility to each other. We are all the same – there is no ‘Them and Us’ only ‘Us’.
Written by Brian Scott.
#APLEMonth2023 #VolunteersWeek #DignityForAll