Volunteer Advisor at Volunteer Centre Croydon
Once of the most important services that Volunteer Centre Croydon offers is the advising service provided by the volunteers at our office. The advisors themselves are volunteers so they understand perfectly how this works. It can be both a rewarding and a challenging role as you come in contact with so many different people and not all of them know what they want. So the advisor has to patiently gather the information needed using interviewing skills.
Such volunteer is Sakunthala Sivarajan, or Saku for short. She has been volunteering with us not just as an advisor but also helping out at different events.
She always enjoyed doing something for the community and helping those around her and after retirement, the best option to keep herself active was to take on volunteering. Visiting the library one day she has come across a leaflet from CVA and found out more about volunteering. Updating her computer skills and social abilities were the main reasons why, one day she decided to take on this experience. “Soon after my first visit I was invited to apply to become an advisor. It took a long while to become volunteer with VCC [Volunteer Centre Croydon]. I had to come back [to the office] several times as the recruitment process was very slow. It’s much better now though” Saku says. “I have never done any customer service roles before, nor face to face, so I was reluctant to take on the role”. So why continuing to apply for it? “I like helping people a lot, it gives me purpose and makes me feel useful and happy. I get to talk to so many different people, some with very hard challenges in their lives, each with different backgrounds… I like to get to know them a little, even if it’s only for three quarters of an hour. I always make sure I understand what they want to do [in terms of volunteering opportunities] and then slowly and calmly explain to them the process.”
When asked how this volunteering experience has made a difference to her, Saku replied: “There are so many benefits […] I get the satisfaction that I have helped someone start their path into volunteering, I meet people with such different backgrounds and helps me build my confidence when dealing with people. Helping others make me more aware of the kind of problems that some people face and somehow it allows me to reflect and find solutions to my own problems as well. Also learned to be patient and how to explain things to people. It’s so important to be able to build a rapport with them [the clients coming for the interview], so I learned to find a common ground and talk about common things – where they are from, what they have visited etc”
Volunteering not only helps the individual evolve and improve their skills, but also helps the organisation for who he/she gives up the time. The skills that someone brings on board while they are volunteering are as crucial for the organisation as it is for the project they decided to volunteer.
“I believe organisations who take on volunteers have a lot to gain from it” Saku says “[in my case] I am aware that [by volunteering as an advisor] I can help the centre increase the amount of people recorded as volunteers. By helping people find the right opportunity for them I improve the chances for them to become placed with that organisation. I then go ahead and record this onto our systems, so we can then report how many people we have helped.”