Have you ever wondered why volunteers get involved with Healthwatch Leeds or what they get out of volunteering with us? Read a volunteers story to find out! In the second of our series of volunteer interviews we speak with Thomas Donegan, 23, who found work after volunteering with us.
• How did you find out about the volunteer opportunities at Healthwatch Leeds?
I was speaking at Leeds Trinity University volunteer conference and met the Healthwatch Volunteer co-ordinator, we got chatting about volunteer opportunities at Healthwatch Leeds. It was a chance meeting, great timing!
• Why did you get involved?
After meeting Craig, we exchanged details and set up a volunteer interview where I got the chance to find out more. Craig told me about the volunteer opportunities available to me and following my recruitment I attended the Healthwatch Leeds induction for new volunteers. The training came across as really professional and set out my expectations for what volunteering at Healthwatch involved. I really bought in to the cause and purpose of why research and gathering patient and service user's views is so important to help deliver a quality Health and social care system. I volunteered for HWL for the next 6 months.
• What kind of things have you done and how was the volunteering experience?
I got involved in quite a few different activities like the Aspire Project where I got the chance to work with a group of people with learning difficulties, which was a new experience for me. This project opened my eyes to some of the great services out there for people with learning disabilities. We spoke to service users and carers about their satisfaction levels with the service they were receiving. It felt like we were making a difference to people's lives and trying to help improve a service they used, by better understanding the client's needs and what other things service users wanted Aspire to offer. It felt like we were giving people a voice and the service had to act upon the report and recommendations that we went on to produce.
I worked on a Community Dentistry project too, to find out from outpatients about how the different services operated and what improvements patients thought could be made. We met some really friendly staff in these services and heard some interesting view points from patients. I also got in involved in 'Hear, See and Treat' which was a big focus of my time volunteering. This involved gathering a large number of responses about the way A&E is run and introducing an idea for a new 'way of working' and gathering the public's feedback on the concept. It felt like people's views were being taking in to consideration before any change was made.
• Why do you think others may enjoy it, or get from volunteering with us?
I had good fun volunteering with Healthwatch Leeds and gained some much needed experience, developing new skills. I felt very welcomed in to a really friendly team and felt really supported all the way through. You get fully briefed before every project and this made me more comfortable going out and speaking to members of the public. Volunteers get regular updates on projects so you can see the difference that we are making!
What did you do before volunteering with HWL?
I'd just finished a business and marketing degree and was looking to gain experience to help me find work. Healthwatch Leeds seemed like a good cause and a way of getting my foot in the door somewhere.
• How has volunteering for HWL benefitted you?
I attended training provided by Healthwatch Leeds including Enter and View . The Safeguarding Adults training helped me to be more efficient as a volunteer but also in the world of work afterwards. Healthwatch Leeds values and encourages volunteer's personal development. The staff were very appreciative of all the time I was putting in and this eventually helped me secure work at Simon on the Street.
• What motivated you to volunteer for Healthwatch Leeds?
My volunteer experience was good for me personally by keeping me busy until I secured full-time employment.
• What has been the highlight of your time volunteering for HWL so far?
Over time I took on increased responsibility and became a Lead Volunteer, supervising other volunteers and managing activities on the day. Parveen, one of the Community Project Workers, took me under her wing and after learning the ropes, she trusted me to lead some visits on my own.
• Has volunteering helped your employment prospects?
The Volunteer Co-ordinator was really helpful sending me voluntary sector job opportunities and then helping me in my new role as Volunteer Co-ordinator at Simon on the Streets when I began work. My volunteer experience made me more community orientated, You also get a feel good factor from giving back it definitely gave me a taste for helping people and is perhaps why I am now working in the voluntary sector myself.The training and volunteer experience helped me to settle in to my new team quickly and easily, helped by the interpersonal communication skills I had developed at Healthwatch Leeds.