Changing Lives

Volunteering is a great way to learn new skills, meet new people and build self confidence. Don't just take our word for it, read Mayko, Jane, Willem, Lucinda, Shaun, Kadi, Owen, Mark, Anthony and Jacqueline's stories about their volunteering experiences...

Mayko's Story

When I was a child, I dreamt of a better world. Then I realised I can make a difference to people’s lives and to contribute to the local community.

In order to boost my career prospect after graduation, I started volunteering as a Silver Surfer Tutor for a Bield Care home where I taught the residents how to use IT equipment and the Internet. Indeed, I developed necessary skills and managed to secure a position within the Civil Service.

A couple of years later, I decided to volunteer with children to gain some invaluable experience as I wish to adopt a child in the future. After successful interview and the initial training, I started working with ChildLine as a School Service Volunteer. I visit local school and deliver presentations and lead workshops on a wide range of very sensitive issues. Not only this role improved my communication skills and boosted my confidence in public speaking, I also found it very rewarding as it is everybody’s responsibility to protect a child.

0Six months ago I left Scotland and moved with a new job. Since I was new to Southend on Sea, and my ChildLine volunteering was put on a hold due to summer holidays, I approached SAVS regarding any volunteering opportunities.

I attended a meeting with Emily, the Volunteer Centre Manager, and we discussed possible volunteering roles and we narrowed the search down to four posts. Emily provided me with further details to take these with me and if I wish to take any forward.

After I reviewed proposed volunteering roles, I made a decision to contact SPDNS Nursecare, St. Mary’s Primary School but also SAVS’s Turning Tides due to my previous experience in educating elderly citizens.

Once the background checks have been completed I was able to start volunteering with children at St. Mary’s Primary School. I act as a role model and help out with morning bus run. If you have no children, you probably aren’t aware how different their world can be. And if you do, you know how excited kids get about anything, no matter how trivial or big!

Until I make new friends in Southend on Sea, I have too much time in my hands so I also volunteer for SPDNS as a Social Media Moghul. I had several meetings with their Chief Executive and discussed their presence on social media, as well as updating their website. While working on their website and reviewing material for their social media, I learn how invaluable service they provide to local citizens. SPDNS is a not for profit organisation and I feel privileged that I can help them.

Last but not least, I also started volunteering with Turning Tides Team at SAVS’s centre where I support elderly citizens with the use of IT and the Internet.

All in all, my volunteering is important for numerous reasons that benefit both the local community and myself. Every time I donate a handful of time, the difference I make is tremendous and it shapes the community for better while the experience improves my skills and abilities.

I would highly recommend to anyone to speak to SAVS Advisors and sign up for a volunteering role. The rewarding feeling and sense of achievement you will get in return for one or two hours of your time, will lead to your personal growth. And seeing hope and happiness your actions bring to people, that my dear friends, is an experience that cannot be bought with any amount of money. 

Jane's Story

I know there are many reasons for volunteering but for me voluntary work has opened doors otherwise closed to me.

I am a mature woman with a “let’s say” colourful past. On top of that, I have changed location, am not known in this area and have no useful references to call upon. On the positive side, I have many useful skills and an abundance of time all of which are going to waste sitting at home, my life going nowhere, completely dissatisfied, lonely and feeling very sorry for myself.

Taking the first step in anything is never easy but it is that first step that can change your whole outlook on life. Doors will open, opportunities arise, self esteem rejuvenated, you get to feel alive again, useful and part of your community.

Personally, it was the thought of telling someone about my past and the fear of rejection that was so scary. Once I took that first step and drummed up the courage to go for an interview, I met a non-judgemental professional who did everything to support me. They never gave up on me even when I wanted to give up on myself.

Since starting the process of volunteering, I feel like I have started a new chapter in my life. Rather than coming to the end, I have reinvented myself and set out on a new path with renewed hope and a positive outlook.

My advice would be “Go for it!” What do you have to lose?


Willem's Story

Willem joined the youth volunteering project which led to him producing the volunteer newsletter for the Salvation Army Hadleigh Training Centre. Here is Willem's story..

I am Willem Taylor and I was very eager to get into work after having been long term unemployed and going down the volunteering route seemed like a very good option.  Not just for helping myself to get into paid employment but to boost my confidence on several levels as well.  It was also a great opportunity to do something very enjoyable and that was worthwhile use of my time.

I found out about SAVS through the Salvation Army in Southend who got me in contact with Emily Middlemast.  The Southend Salvation Army has been a very important asset in my success; they gave me a massive amount of support whilst I was unemployed and are still a great amount of support now that is very much appreciated.

I found the interview to be helpful and to the point, this was mainly due to the fact Emily got me on the phone with Ashley Smith there and then at the interview, which lead to me being able to plan an interview date with Ashley the following day.  At the face to face interview with Ashley I was able to get a broader idea of the role and to prepare dates and times as to getting started with the position itself.

Since I have been volunteering at the Hadleigh Training Centre I have been writing the Volunteer newsletter and assisting the staff in the IT department with a variety of tasks.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Hadleigh Training Centre and it has helped me out of a lot with improving my confidence namely with having been able to have the opportunity to work after having been unemployed for such a long period of time.

It has also been socially very enjoyable to interact with all the new people and the sense of importance with having a role to perform is very rewarding.

Again with the help of the Salvation Army in Southend, the Hadleigh Training Centre have been kind enough to be able to offer me 13 weeks of paid employment at the training centre doing mostly the same role with some other tasks to fill the time.

Lucinda's Story

I have been unemployed for 11 years since I hurt my back but now feel the time is right to start thinking about going to work, rather than staying at home all the time. I saw a lady at Ingeus, she was from Richmond Fellowship and I was chatting to her about doing care work and she suggested  I came to SAVS to see about voluntary work, because it wouldn’t be as stressful as paid work. This lady told me to be positive and to go straight down to SAVS to make an appointment to see someone. So I did! I went to reception at SAVS and made an appointment to see a lady called Emily. I had to wait a couple of weeks but it was worth it.

I was very nervous when I came to see Emily but as I started talking I became more confident and relaxed. Emily was very helpful and understanding and patient and after talking to her we found a couple of roles in the area of care work, that I was interested in finding out more about. One of the roles was at the Southend and Westcliff Community Centre supporting a Dementia group and the other was with the Alzheimers Organsiation helping at a Men’s motivational group. Emily gave me the contact details and I went home and phoned the contact for the first role as soon as I got in through the door!

I spoke to the lady, Karen, I had a chat to her about my situation and she was very understanding and said would I like to go down there the following Tuesday morning to have a chat with them. As a result, I now volunteer and help out on a Tuesday and Thursday morning. I am enjoying chatting to residents, being there for them.

I would normally have been very anxious and negative about meeting new people and going to a new place but the staff  there have been very kind and understanding and made me feel welcome as soon as I got there. If you are like me and you feel anxious about volunteering, give it a go because you never know what the future might hold. For me it feels like it was the right thing to do and I am grateful I have been given the opportunity after all these years.


I am so grateful to Emily for helping me and being understanding and helping me back into care work.

Shaun's Story

My journey volunteering for SAVS at the triple T’s children’s club began back in 2013 roughly nine months after I moved from London to Southend and I was in search of an opportunity to gain some experience in youth work with a hope to pursue a career in either child care or mentoring.

I used to attend similar clubs in my early teens and I remember how much support and encouragement I used to get from the youth workers who would push and motivate me in ways of how I could improve on my abilities in whichever interest or activity that I chose to do. As I grew older I would run into some of these youth workers from time to time and we would talk life stuff and share jokes from times past but our conversations were mainly about life progression, I’m going back a long time now but this is from where my inspiration for youth work first started to grow and I often wondered if I could have the same quality
to make a difference to young people in a positive way.

Today I can say that I’m proud I explored a passion for youth work and it feels great to be an active member of  the community.
During my time so far volunteering for Turning Tides I’ve been on numerous trips and days out to places like Colchester Zoo and Great Yarmouth, we also enjoy sports sessions over the local park during the summer not to mention swimming, games and arts and crafts at the club, I really cannot say enough about how much fun its been; the rewarding feeling of appreciation for contributing just a little of my time is even better than how much I enjoy it. I’m also grateful to all my co workers who have great qualities and skills, some of whom at the beginning I was able to watch and learn a lot from through their interaction with the kids and over a period of time my confidence grew more and more, I was encouraged to go on courses and gained certificates in mentoring, safe guarding of vulnerable children and anti bullying and prevention.

Recently I attended an interview and was accepted for training to become a SOVA mentor working with ex-offenders in the community and re-offenders in the prison service. This was also arranged through the help of the Volunteer Centre at SAVS for which I’m ever so grateful; their help, support and encouragement in a town where I hardly knew anybody has been amazing.

Shaun Otto.

Kadi's Story


My name is Kadi and I just wanted to write about how volunteering has changed my life. I came to England last year from Sierra Leone. 

It was not easy to start over in a place where you hardly know anyone. It was my loneliness that attracted me to volunteering. Through SAVS, I secured a place at Trinity Family Centre. I help with the parent/toddler group.

Gradually, things began to change. I became more open and can freely express myself due to my interaction with people. The people are nice and helpful and that has enabled me to conquer my anxiety problem.

Things seemed bad at first when I came but now I am hopeful for the future. I started volunteering because I had nothing to do and had no friends. Now I've found out that it's more than that, it also feels good giving back to the community and helping.

Kadi (aged 18)


Owen's Story

 I first began to consider volunteering after my eldest sibling inspired me to make a change predominantly whilst working abroad with those less fortunate than ourselves, mostly living below the poverty line. After returning home, I felt lost without a sense of direction to guide my now self-righteous path of doing good. This is when I decided I should put myself forward for a local volunteering service that not only benefits others but myself as well.

How did I find out about volunteering? It’s simple! I began searching online for local charities or council funded organisations which I wanted to help and thought best fit my abilities. Since my local knowledge of Southend is fairly good, I knew about SAVS through a friend who had mentioned the organisation before. One quick stop into the Centre and I was on a path of fulfilment!

The Volunteer Centre itself is full of enthusiastic people who give a warm and friendly reception. My first impression was great. I was also with people who wanted to make a positive change within the local community so I couldn’t have been in a better situation.

What I get from volunteering is special, if I can have a positive impact on the lives of others and engage in personal development on even just one individual then I have succeeded! It gives great pleasure after every session that I have done something that will change someone’s life for the better; even the smallest things can have a huge impact on the service users I spend my spare time with. Not only is it rewarding but there is also the social aspect of fellow volunteers and creating contacts later in life.

The benefits of volunteering are great! You will learn new social skills and perhaps find yourself in situations you wouldn’t have before you began volunteering, some of which may be challenging. However you will learn so much more from others than they will learn from you. If you give it your all, you will learn still more.

Obviously volunteering can be daunting and a tiny bit scary? However, after you commit yourself to it you might find that you enjoy every second! Along the way you will meet some brilliant people that want the same as you, to make a positive change to others.

Be the change you want to see.

Owen (aged 21)

Mark's Story


Up until recently the only voluntary work l had done was for the Essex Wildlife Trust at my local nature reserve, Two Tree Island, in the early 2000s.

Then, in November and December 2013, l  volunteered for Mind, a mental health charity, collecting money at the Royals Shopping Centre in Southend for their new Jubilee Centre. People were very generous, especially as it was in the run up to Christmas. 

In January 2014 I  re-started volunteering with EWT and have since begun with Southend Hospital (Feeding Buddies and Patient Experience Surveys),  Southend LIbraries, ReThink, EHPPS, RSPB, HARP, St Michael's & All Angels Church  Saturday Morning Club, Whizz-Kidz, Leigh Rotary and Lions Clubs and backstage with local amateur theatre groups.

Giving my time to all of these worthy causes in the local community brings me enormous satisfaction and happiness, a wonderful feeling inside. There is also the added bonus of meeting like-minded volunteers, making new friends and socialising with them. 

I must give special mention to SAVS, the volunteer centre. Emily and the team there do a wonderful job and are an ideal starting point for all of those people out there considering voluntary work.

So, if you are considering volunteering, there are many organisations just waiting for your help. There are many different roles and you can give as much, or as little, time as possible. l promise that you will be appreciated and ,once started, there will be no looking back.

Mark Pyne

Anthony's Story


Hmm where to start. I have always known that I’ve wanted to help people and give something back but I never knew when the time would come. My passion is working with people, especially young people under 18 but ultimately as long as I am helping, then that makes me happy. I could bore you with my life story but its not about me, its about those I help; but my story as such has given me the tools that I need to help, give advice, be that shoulder for someone, to empathise with them, to help them feel good about themselves when they are possibly having a down moment and hopefully be someone who they can trust which unfortunately not many people have nowadays. My volunteer’s story goes like this, I registered with, I applied for how ever many roles and then got a phone call from The Volunteer Centre at SAVS, and they thoughtfully put me in touch with Chris Sollis from SBC and I arranged a meeting with her. I met Chris in the civic and over a cup of coffee I told Chris a bit about my life and what I wanted to do, how I had changed from being a little Herbert to someone who wanted to use his life skills and education from the school of hard knocks, to put this to good use and hopefully help someone from making the same mistakes as I did. Luckily Chris saw something in me that I knew I had but wasn’t entirely sure of myself and how to go about utilising this experience and turning it in to something good. My first role was at Connexions in Cluny Sq and my first night was a real eye opener, but it was a real introduction to youth work. I remember making tea for the young people and asking them about themselves and shaking there hands, those 3 things must have gone a long way as they stood me well, one young person said after the incident that I guess we wont see you again to which I replied I’ll see you next week, to which he did and every week after that. I got respect for that and for all the tea I made but also because I took an interest in these young people, also credit to the workers who have guided me and helped out. With out their help and advice, I’m not sure I could have done it. I also was lucky to have managers that trusted me and believed in me and made me feel important. I was always made to feel part of the team and that my opinion was relevant. I also started to volunteer at Focus in town and at SYC so I ended up volunteering 3 nights a week at youth clubs and that’s not counting the various roles I took with YPDAT (young peoples drugs and alcohol team) and YOS (youth offending service) again through all these roles I was made to feel important and relevant and the supervision I received was amazing and supportive and I felt I was able to shine. It built my confidence up, it gave me self esteem and awareness about myself of which I wasn’t sure of, it also gave me knowledge in a role that I never would have been able to get otherwise. I now have 2 jobs off the back of my volunteering. I am a Streets Ahead Community Worker and I am also a Youth Support Worker for SBC, 2 roles which I absolutely love but would never have got without volunteering. I also won an award for volunteering, something which was great because I was recognised within my role and even though I had already secured 2 jobs it still made me feel that all those hours I gave up, they were important hours and it was nice to have that recognition. Volunteering helped my realise my dream and gave me my goal. I owe so much to volunteering and if you ever think that you have nothing to give then you my friend are seriously wrong. We all have something to give, whether we know it or not.


Jacqueline's Story

When I applied to be an Ambassador for Essex during the Olympics I was very excited and happy to be told I had been accepted. I didn’t know what role I would be given nor where I would be located and I felt a nervous excitement. As time moved on and I received more information about the opportunity and news of the Olympics was unfolding I couldn’t wait to hear about my role as an Ambassador for Essex!

The time came and we were invited to a gathering of Ambassadors to collect our kit and our uniforms. It was wet, very wet but we all managed to gather in front of the lake, on the grass, for a group photo. I bought a small copy of this photo and it is indeed a ‘spectacle in pink and magenta!’ Now it was a reality – I had my uniform, my bag, badges and my ID. I was ready to go!

My first role was at London Southend Airport meeting and greeting everyone who passed through the airport and the rail terminal. I was one in a team of four. We were met by our Team Leader, introduced to the rest of the team and allocated our tasks for the shift. It was very interesting talking to people, asking them where they were going or arriving from. Helping them with maps and local information, but generally smiling and welcoming them to Essex.

I was a Team Leader for all my other shifts at the airport and was very happy to take on the extra responsibility. The volunteers I worked with were so enthusiastic and fun to be with. I am a people’s person and I had a great time with everyone, chatting and having a laugh. To me, this is what volunteering is all about. I had an amazing time and I thank everyone at SAVS for their organisation and support during the Olympics. I have met new friends and hopefully new business colleagues too. I will definitely continue volunteering, even when I am working. I recommend everyone to give it a go, it could change your life!


To find out more about volunteering call Emily on 01702 356000 at the Volunteer Centre Southend.