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“Volunteering absolutely lays the foundations for the rest of your working life” two Whickham students are raising awareness of volunteering this Student Volunteering Week.

Katie Simpson and Maisie Rayne, both 17, are two students who’ve been volunteering regularly in St Oswald’s Hospice Whickham shop since the pandemic. Both girls recently spoke about how much they value their time volunteering and what it’s meant to them as they help us mark Student Volunteering Week.

Katie said: “I live locally and pass the St Oswald’s Hospice Whickham shop on my way to school each morning. When I saw they were promoting volunteering vacancies, I thought it seemed like a nice opportunity and particularly after the pandemic, I wanted to do something with my time that was meaningful and made a difference.”

Maisie explained that the people she volunteers alongside and the variety of roles involved in her volunteering make the experience worthwhile for her:

“It’s a really busy and varied role where I am given the chance to do everything from serving customers, operating the till, sorting donations, organising displays and steaming and preparing clothes. The time goes over so quickly and all the people I volunteer with are absolutely lovely. The best part of volunteering is absolutely the people – customers and other volunteers – who make the whole experience so worthwhile. The people you meet, the customers you serve and the other volunteers are what make the experience for me. Living in Whickham myself, it’s been good to get to know my community and the people who live and work in the area who I wouldn’t normally see or meet.”

On the benefits of volunteering, Katie credited her time volunteering with St Oswald’s Hospice with helping her secure her first paid job and boosting her CV and skillset:

“I secured my first paid part-time job in November 2021 thanks to volunteering at St Oswald’s Hospice giving me the confidence I needed to apply for a job. I find I am much more confident at dealing with the public and doing my job thanks to all the skills I’ve picked up through volunteering. The whole team is incredibly supportive and volunteering really eases you into the world of work. Volunteering is never about dropping you in the deep end, it slowly eases you in until you feel confident enough. Volunteering absolutely lays the foundations for the rest of your working life. I’m hoping to study English Literature and Italian at University and I think there’s a connection between volunteering in a charity shop and studying communication because it’s all about how you see the world through different people’s eyes.”

Asked if she would encourage others to volunteer, Katie added:

“I have such a good time each Tuesday. If people have just a few hours to spare each week, then they absolutely should volunteer. It’s never a drag. I love coming into the shop and find it genuinely fun and personally rewarding. Once you start, you won’t want to stop. I come away each week knowing I’ve done something great which has made a difference, however small.”

If you’re aged 14+ and have just a few hours to spare each week and are interested in volunteering as a way to boost your CV, develop skills, make friends, gently dip your toes into the world of work, grow in confidence and support your mental health, we have a huge number of varied volunteering roles at our charity shops right across the region. If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering with us, please fill out our quick form below at www.stoswaldsuk.org/retail-volunteer-recruitment