My name is Bernie. I used to work for LGBT Foundation and have been volunteering with them for the past 4 years, maybe a bit longer. I used to work on the Front Desk as well as in Finance so I got into volunteering through that. I’m quite a quiet person but also quite confident, so I like to socialise and be part of the community as a whole. I like to be involved in different things to keep the community feel and culture going. That’s very important to me.
I found out about LGBT Foundation online when I was looking for things to get involved in. I wanted to feel part of the community, be part of groups and the social side but also because I love to help people. Part of my daily life is about helping people. I wanted to do more with those skills and having those kinds of intentions, I got in touch with LGBT Foundation and it’s just gone from there really!
There are 2 roles that I currently do. Alongside some other volunteers I volunteer within the Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s social Group Horizon. This role has an element of support so if people aren’t comfortable going out to the bars and the clubs around here or are new to the area or have some difficulties with confidence, they can come to the group. We are very open, very relaxed. That’s what we want: we want people to come and enjoy themselves and meet like-minded people. My role is to facilitate the space, so we start with an introduction and a pronoun introduction, then we explain what the session is going to be that day and basically keep the session going by talking to and involving people. We have different themes for each session which means we have to think of new activities. It could be arts and crafts, painting, DVD screenings, social night, games night, bingo, seasonal celebrations. Our job is to keep the ball rolling throughout and keep the conversation going and introduce new members. It’s rewarding really and still new to me because it’s not something I’ve done a lot of before and I have to be quite organised. I work with some great people; the other volunteers are fantastic. My other volunteering role is with the Village Angels, which I am very, very proud of.
The best part about volunteering at Horizon is that the group gives people the opportunity to be who they are. They might be in a period of difficulty with their mental health, they may not be out, or going out to a bar might be very difficult for them. They can come to us and be who they are and be in a very nice, relaxed atmosphere and not have to worry about opening up. Obviously it’s a very confidential space as well and even if it’s only for an hour and a half, it gives people the opportunity to be themselves.
With Village Angels, the best part is all of it but often it’s the “what if?” element of the role: what if we aren’t there? Who is going to help the people who need support? That’s something that always on my mind when I’m volunteering. Being with people when they’re in need and being able to help them is the best thing. That’s what we are there for. Angels is one of the greatest things: I absolutely love it. It’s emotionally hard work, and it’s tiring, but the amount of people that we can physically and mentally support is unbelievable. All my colleagues work very hard, and I am Community Safety- trained. I get a lot out of volunteering with the Angels and I can bring my skills to the role.
Volunteering at LGBT Foundation has given me confidence, definitely. Self-confidence and a sense of pride. You are helping people and you get a lot out of helping people. It makes you feel better about yourself and it’s very rewarding. It gives me a sense of accomplishment: supporting or talking to someone in the group or literally help save someone through Angels. It gives me a sense of worth. I have suffered with anxiety in the past which I’m very open about and volunteering has helped with that. Giving something back has definitely had a positive impact on my wellbeing.
If you’re thinking of getting involved in volunteering at LGBT Foundation, I’d say just apply! It depends what you’d like to get involved in as there are different roles and different skills are needed, but just get in touch with LGBT Foundation or Coordinators that run the programmes. Take a look at the role descriptions on the website and talk to people that volunteer at LGBT Foundation already. I have so much positivity about my volunteering and it has helped me personally as well as enabling me to make new friends. I am part of something bigger than myself and it’s a lovely, lovely thing to be a part of.