Supported Volunteering Project

SAVS Supported Volunteering

Do you struggle with low self esteem, anxiety or isolation?

Or have you experienced mental ill health?
Would you like support to start volunteering?

'Volunteering has improved my mental health'

Volunteering can offer you:

  • an increased self confidence
  • a chance to gain new skills
  • an opportunity to make new friends
  • the chance to get involved in something more enjoyable 
  • and much more...


Call Rachel Rooks on 01702 356021 for a chat or if you'd prefer, email:

About Us

This project, which is funded by the Big Lottery Fund, will support people who may have some experience of mental ill health.

Our aim is to give volunteers quality one on one support to increase confidence and self worth, to provide training to highlight skills and experience and help to identify the type of volunteering the volunteer would like to pursue.

We also aim to break down the myths and stigma that surround mental ill health, helping both the prospective volunteers, and organisations that host them, overcome any issues.





You can contact Rachel on 01702 356021 or email



How volunteering Helped Me - Lorraine's Story

I saw a leaflet in my doctor’s surgery. On the front it said, ‘Want to build your confidence?’.

I hadn’t thought of volunteering before but I related to everything it was saying in the leaflet and I thought yes, I will give that a go!

I have been off work for six years now. I was a machinist making curtains. I had to leave my job to have an operation on my right hand. Whilst I was having treatment on my hand I was diagnosed with ‘temporary lobe epilepsy’, which affects my memory.

The diagnosis left me not wanting to go anywhere in case I forgot where I was going or what I was doing. So, I just hid myself away from people. My confidence totally dropped and so did my abilities within myself.

After picking up the leaflet, I got in contact with Rachel at SAVS who was wonderful. She talked to me about volunteering and told me about a community café looking for volunteers. I jumped at the chance!

I was so nervous at first but as the weeks went on, everyone there, including the customers made me feel so welcome. Since being there my confidence has grown and grown.

I have recently taken on more volunteering. I now volunteer at Belfairs Riding School for the disabled and am a sports volunteers for the disabled at Garons Park. I have also been lucky enough to be asked by the SAVS café to stay on volunteering with them. I hope to start looking for paid work soon.

Thanks to Rachel and everyone at SAVS….my life has now changed for the positive.


How volunteering Helped Me - Aaron's Story

I have suffered from anxiety and depression for most of my adult life, until eventually I had to leave my job because I felt unable to cope, and my physical health had also begun to suffer significantly. At this point I lost any remaining confidence and became extremely withdrawn and reclusive, avoiding people and the outside world as much as I possibly could. This went on for years without any improvement, and I frequently felt that everything was hopeless. Medication proved ineffective, but following two years of regular psychotherapy, I felt I had to find a way to rejoin society and attempt to build my confidence.

I was introduced to Rachel at SAVS via Rethink. From the outset, she was incredibly supportive and encouraging. For the first time in years I felt that perhaps I could be of use. Rachel completely understood my need to take things slowly at first, because the thought of engaging with people and the outside world after years of hiding away seemed impossibly daunting. She really listened to my concerns, taking time to get to know me and find out what I felt I could and couldn't cope with. There was absolutely no pressure.

Through Rachel and SAVS, I was offered a volunteering opportunity as an admin assistant for a local organisation involved with health and social care services. Needless to say I was extremely apprehensive initially, but Rachel introduced me to the small team, who were so welcoming it really helped to put me at my ease. I have now been volunteering there regularly for almost a year and I feel considerably better in myself as a result. The people I work with couldn't be nicer or more supportive, I enjoy what I do,  and it’s good to feel  I am contributing something.

Only a year ago I could never have envisaged any of this. My state of mind has definitely improved, and gradually I am feeling more confident in other areas of my life as a result of having taken that first important step. I am so grateful to Rachel and SAVS for having made this possible. Volunteering has given me something positive to build on, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone.


How volunteering Helped Me - Beth's Story

My little girl was going to start nursery and I wanted to start volunteering so I had something to do but mostly because I want to eventually find paid work when she starts big school. I have never had paid work before, so I thought volunteering would be a good way to have something for my CV.

I have been diagnosed with low level ADHD/Aspergers Syndrome and sometimes this can leave me feeling low in confidence. Volunteering has helped to increase my confidence and improved my self esteem. I enjoy meeting new people but I don’t like large groups so at times, whilst volunteering, I have felt anxious. I also felt anxious when I attended the training for my volunteer role as a feeding buddy at my local hospital. There were so many people there and I thought I might not be able to stick it out but I did and feel much better within myself for doing so.

I really want to eventually work in mental health and support people like I have been supported in the past. I know I will need to attend college to do a course in health & social care. I hope that volunteering will give me the confidence and get up and go to do this.

I hope to keep volunteering until I am ready to attend college.



How Volunteers Have Helped Us - An Organisation's Story

An appointment was arranged by Rachel to talk to me about someone with mental health issues volunteering at our Charity Shop. 

Rachel explained any prospective volunteer would be fully assessed before starting with us. I did question how much support would be given if a volunteer wasn’t suitable and she explained that it was a two way process – if we didn’t feel comfortable with the volunteer or equally if the volunteer wasn’t happy in the work environment, she would deal with any situation if it should arise. She covered all aspects, answering every question I had with professionalism.

After our meeting, Rachel phoned and asked to bring in Alan for an interview. With Alan present she went through all of his anxiety issues; explaining how he didn’t like to be in the spotlight and would rather stay at the back. I asked Alan to let me know if he wasn’t happy with anything I asked him to do.

Alan started the following week. Initially, he was reserved but we talked about things in general and I believe he became more comfortable. At first he didn’t like going to the front of the shop if customers were there, also if people were looking at books he wouldn’t go and fill them up. I allowed him to go at his own pace with some encouragement.   For example, I would help him fill the books or videos so I was with him. After a few weeks he was fine to do things on his own. He is will now go out to the front changing clothes and filling up without a problem.   He has opened up with us and has a wicked sense of humour! Laughter is good!! 

Last Wednesday, he was talking to a volunteer who does the till and Alan said he wouldn’t mind trying the till if she was with him which is something he wouldn’t have thought about a few months ago.

Rachel has been a constant support, phoning and calling in to see how Alan is doing. I wouldn’t have any worries if she asked me to have another volunteer.

Manager – Samaritans Charity Shop.

If you are concerned about somebody with mental ill health...

contact the Taylor Centre (SEPT) on 01702 456800.
Out of hours, you should contact your local hospital's A&E department.

Other organisations which you may find useful are:

Rethink Recovery Point - 01702 330267

Southend MIND - 01702 601123