Tashala has been involved with Birmingham Settlement for over a decade and has used multiple services provided by us. “I got to know Birmingham Settlement originally when I took a course to develop basic skills. I later began using the Nursery to help with raising my daughter. I had been using the shop in Erdington for a while but at the time I didn’t realise they were part of the same thing. I went in after completing my course and began volunteering.” Tashala volunteered in our shops in Erdington, Wylde Green and occasionally Sutton Coldfield.
From there Tashala’s experience grew and she started to get more involved, she told us. “The shop was a great way to buy affordable things for my daughter. She was the best dressed child in school! Going into the shop allowed me to get away from things and was and is a great place to take my kids.”
“I later encountered financial issues and sought money advice from Birmingham Settlement too. The help they gave me was fantastic. Thirty minutes of advice did so much compared to other help I’ve received. It was a lot of stress because it’s difficult when looking for help. They sorted it all out and made me like I didn’t need to worry.”
“I’ve been involved with Birmingham Settlement since before my daughter could walk, and now she loves it too.” Having recently turned fourteen, Tashala’s daughter now volunteers with us in our shop in Erdington too.
Tashala found a job whilst volunteering with us and has since stopped volunteering , but she still help out when she can.
“Birmingham Settlement helped me a lot. The charity is very dear to me and my daughter and helped me to believe in myself.”
Jennifer has been volunteering in one of our charity shops since November 2011. Jennifer started volunteering with us having recently finished work. “It was glorious for a while,” Jennifer told us, “but then the structure and focus I had dipped and I lost many of the things associated with having fulfilling days.”
Jennifer enjoys doing something with her time and likes the variety she gets from volunteering in our shop. Jennifer has learned a wide range of retail and customer service skills while volunteering with us. “To me it’s just a real job. Even though it’s not paid that’s how I treat it.” Jennifer has also built relationships with people, which has helped to reduce her isolation.
“It surprised me what it’s like. When people come in it helps them through difficulties. They come in, buy goods and leave pleased with it. It’s a community thing. For example a customer came in about their sister who was in a really hard place and was destitute. We were able to help in practical ways by finding them furniture. It’s great to be able to help people and sometimes when they come in we can refer them to other areas of the Settlement. “
Geraldine has recently begun volunteering in one of our offices supporting our Money Advice service with administration as well as helping on reception. We spoke to Geraldine about her experiences with us so far.
What made you want to volunteer in the first place?
“I wanted a change in career. Due to health problems I had been working in a low-stress environment, mostly in cleaning, and catering over the last 15 years. As I got better I completed. As I got better I completed a course and the provider pointed me towards voluntary work.”
What do you like and dislike about volunteering with us?
“The experience has been very positive. I feel like I’m learning all the time everyday, gaining more valuable experience. Everybody is very friendly. Being unemployed is very isolating so it’s nice to be near people. I tried really hard to think of something bad to tell you to help other volunteers who might follow but I couldn’t think of anything. It’s been such a good opportunity to learn because it’s work I would really like to do and it’s hard to break into the area because when you’re looking for a job they always want experience. It’s hard to find that first job to give you a chance to develop your skills.”
How did you feel about the training/support you were given here?
“First of all I was given all the basic knowledge I needed and it was very helpful to get started. Everybody is very patient and supportive here. I’m always asking questions and everybody is willing to help me. Sometimes you just have to learn as you’re going along as you need to know so much to be on reception, but everybody has been very supportive. It might be easier for someone already with experience. I do feel the training and support is good. It’s a very nice atmosphere to work in.”
Do you use any Birmingham Settlement’s other services?
“I went to the Job Club recently and it was very interesting. I’ve had advice from other agencies before but I really learned a lot. I had one-to-one advice to help me with positive thinking and how to prepare for interviews, as well as using LinkedIn. At home I look at example questions, but it was really helpful and more realistic to be with someone and actually practice answering the important questions I could be asked.”
Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience with us?
“I’m very happy with it so far. I enjoy coming into work everybody. I appreciate the great opportunity I’ve been given.”
Nick has learning difficulties and volunteers in our shop in Sutton Coldfield several days a week. At the time he came to us he wasn’t doing much and he thought volunteering could be a good option for him. One day he met the manager of the shop and liked her so decided he would give it a try. Nick’s favourite part about volunteering is all the friendly people he gets to meet each day. “Volunteering has helped me to build my confidence and learn new skills” explains Nick. “I am just happy to work for the Settlement”. One of the Settlement staff commented “He’s very witty and makes me laugh. He’s so lovely to work with.”
Rachel volunteers in Birmingham Settlement’s shop in Newtown. She has been involved with the organisation for over seventeen years using our Money Advice service as a lifeline at times. “When I first moved into my flat I really needed help and they were brilliant. If it wasn’t for the Settlement I don’t know what I would have done.” After receiving the help she needed Rachel wanted to put something back into the Settlement and started to volunteer with us in 2011.
Rachel enjoys working with the people in the shop, getting to know the regular customers and having fun. “Some of the customers haven’t got anybody to talk to so it makes their day,” Rachel told us. Rachel has gained experience working in the shop and learned a lot about health and safety, which is a field she is interested working in. Volunteering with us has helped Rachel to speak to more people and come out of her shell. Rachel explained that she has achieved personal growth while volunteering with us also: “When it gets busy I used to get flustered but now I take it in my stride”.
Angie has been volunteering at the Centre for the Aston Family for ten months and mainly helps on reception. Angie had to give up a job as a nursery nurse due to illness, and came to volunteer with Birmingham Settlement in order to help herself get back into the work force and gain administration experience to help with a career change. “Volunteering gets me out of the house and gives me something to do. I enjoy meeting all of the different service users who come to visit the Centre. I have gained knowledge and experience here as well as making some good friends who I get on great with.” Angie has recently begun helping other service areas with administration too, which she hopes will give her a wider range of administration experience.
“My name is Tristan and I have been on a six week placement at Birmingham Settlement. It has been a great experience learning new skills and meeting new people. I have done a wide range of admin duties and have worked with the Fundraising and Communications team mainly. I use a database called Harlequin to input data entry like client donation sheets for Gift Aid. The duties I have been doing include:
- Learning what Gift Aid is,
- Inputting new donors on the database,
- Gift Aid donation sheets in a spreadsheet,
- Making judgements about what information to include.
- Mystery Shopper feedback sheets in a Word document,
- I put letters and booklets in envelopes to be posted,
- I also phoned some of the charity shops to get information for donor sheets,
- I learned about the importance of financial codes/campaigns for post etc to help monitor/report where money has come from and gone,
- I got taught how to upload pictures and videos on the blog and on the Birmingham settlement website as well.
- I learned about ways of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) including adding links and tags to posts to the blog.
- I learned about customising privacy settings and using features such as ‘embargo’ to decide what people can see.
- I learned about different tools and software to help set up and run a website.
It has been a worthwhile thing to do. I have enjoyed my time here and I have gained some new knowledge about the different systems they use in the office for each team as well.”
Sally has been volunteering in our shop in Sutton Coldfield for over five years. When she came to us her son was growing up and she was struggling to fill her time, so she was willing to find out what she could do.
“Volunteering has given me focus, a reason to come out of the house and do something useful. It has helped to create order out of chaos,” Sally told us.
After a career as a nurse Sally had a large gap where she was out of work, but she has found that volunteering with Birmingham Settlement has helped to “orientate” herself to a workplace again, as well as gain confidence to interact with others with widely varied experiences and backgrounds.
Sally looks forward to coming into the shop and meet with the friends she has made. Being around similar people has helped Sally to realise that she’s not as bad off as she thought compared to people of a similar age and sees that others have their own issues to sort out as well.
“I’ve enjoyed all of my time here and gained a varied experience. As you mature in age you have to take on a lot of new things and cope with more than when you were younger, and volunteering has helped to prepare me for that.”
Lilly has been volunteering in one of Birmingham Settlement’s charity shops for around a year, having been out of a work for a long time. “I wasn’t working and I really wanted to work because I like working. When you’ve been out of work for a long time it can be difficult to come out of the house and do things. I was starting to become shy and secluded and my self-esteem was low,” Lilly told us. Volunteering with us has helped Lilly to “break the ice” and do something again.
Lilly finds all aspects of the work interesting and enjoys doing it because she’s learning things. “I’ve gained a lot from working here. I had never worked in a shop before and I’ve learned about shops work, I gained confidence and developed my communication skills. I also have fun.”
Lilly has made several personal achievements by volunteering with us. “I’ve gotten more confident and don’t feel that shy anymore and I talk more than I used to. I’ve also overcome my nervousness of working on the till as I hadn’t done it before.” Lilly doesn’t currently use any other of our services but has recently learned about our Job Club and is interested in getting involved.
Afrah volunteers at the Centre for the Aston Family as a member of our Community Development team and also helps on reception too. Afrah has learned valuable administration skills in her time with us and has enjoyed being part of the local community in Aston. Afrah explained: “I get to meet everybody and see new faces in the community. I’ve learned a lot about the different projects and how the Centre runs and being here gives me the chance to do things in the community. Everyday is different. Sometimes things aren’t as organised as well as they could be but it’s a great place to be.”