Currently I’m a full-time volunteer with Share Scotland, a charity which supports adults with complex learning and physical disabilities. I graduated from Lancaster University in July 2012, with a first-class BA (Hons) in Linguistics and English Language.
I needed to gain valuable experience to help strengthen my application for the postgraduate MSc in Speech and Language Therapy. Also, I wanted the opportunity to move away from home and do something worthwhile and rewarding with my gap year!
How did you find the application process?
I applied through a charity called CSV (www.csv.org.uk) – they specialise in setting up full-time volunteer placements, anywhere within the UK , for between six months to a full year. Initially I registered my interest on the website and then received an email asking if I would like to come to one of the CSV offices for an interview. Prior to the interview I had to fill out a more detailed application form which included questions about my previous work experience and education, why I want to volunteer and my personality and interests. The interview itself lasts an hour and again you fill out another form, this time focused more on your specific skills (e.g. can you cook?) and then discuss in more detail the answers on your application form. My volunteer manager, Amy, then used all this information to compile a detailed volunteer profile, which can then be sent out to other organisations that are looking for volunteers. Luckily Share Scotland liked the look of my profile and, in just three weeks, I received a phone call from Amy offering me a placement in Glasgow which I gladly took!
What do you do here?
My role is similar to that of a support worker so I do a variety of different things such as helping with personal care, cooking, assisting service users with meals, helping them access activities in the community (one of our ladies enjoys both horse riding and skiing!) and generally just enabling them to live as a full a life as possible.
The Good Things:
I absolutely love my placement and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to come and volunteer in Glasgow. CSV state that you are unlikely to volunteer in your home town, so this is a great opportunity to have the chance to live in a new city. You also get your travel expenses to and from the project paid for as well as all your accommodation and bills, so you will not be out of pocket for volunteering. It’s also a great feeling knowing that you are really helping to make a positive difference to people’s lives. Furthermore, as many people aren’t actually aware of the CSV scheme, it does help your CV stand out from the crowd and it’s definitely provided me with some incredibly useful work experience.
The Bad Things:
Living on a limited budget is probably one of the biggest pitfalls. CSVs only get £75 a week expenses so while this is enough to live on, unfortunately you probably won’t have enough money to treat yourself to new clothes or holidays etc. Equally, while you can request certain areas of the UK that you would prefer to be placed in, you don’t really get much of a choice in where you will be placed. Consequently, you could end up very far away from home and all your family and friends – Glasgow is 300 miles (or 5 hours away) from my home town of Nottingham.
Anything else we should know:
If you want to gain valuable work experience and do something a bit different with your gap year I would certainly recommend becoming a full-time volunteer with CSV. Being away from home in the situation has taught me a lot about myself and I definitely think having this experience helped me secure a place on my postgraduate course.