"I know that I benefit from coming here. My mental health, my emotional health, my physical health all benefit from having here to come once a week."
""Doing something that that isn't directly in your own benefit will do you more good than you can ever imagine."
I’m Mindy, and I came here as volunteer because there had been some funding given for training Counsellors. It was eventually administered through Relate. When I wanted to continue my therapy training and do my M.A, I couldn’t do my therapy model at Relate, so that was the point that I began volunteering here.
I found out about LGBT Foundation because I moved to Manchester. Manchester had a good track record even before I loved here, Manchester was famous politically and famous in the LGBT world. I was part of a group called the Northern Dykes Writers Group and we had Manchester members, so I had been to Manchester back in the days of the Section 28 demonstrations, so I knew it existed.
The day will come when it’s not necessary. The day will come when having LGBTQI+ will be irrelevant, and I think we continue to get closer to that point. Ideally, LGBT-specific services and organisations wouldn’t be necessary, but the fact that we still are necessary to a massive degree is how it is and why I’m here.
I’m a Counsellor in the face-to-face Talking Therapy team, so I meet with individuals and couples looking to change their life circumstance or looking to manage their feelings or emotions differently in some way. In the last couple of years especially I’ve had a massive increase in the number of trans* clients, and that has been amazing. For me, volunteering here provides markers of my experiences of understanding sexuality. Continuing my contact with my “home team” has allowed me to develop my views, my understanding, my behaviour, my practice. That is one of the ways I benefit from volunteering here.
Volunteering helps me give something back to my “home team” because if it hadn’t been because of the existence of a Women’s Centre back in 1977, who knows? I could have still been living a straight life and married to a man in a powder blue jumper! Paying my debt of gratitude is why I’m here!
What else do I get out of volunteering….? Well I enjoy the fact that I can say it to people. Anywhere else that I am, for example; the other big thing in my life is my dancing, Egyptian dance, belly dance. When I’m able to be in that world, which is very straight, I just go “I’m a therapist at the LGBT Foundation.” Being able to say that and say something about me, because I still have an alliance to this world, to this political world. That’s important to me.
I know if circumstances changed and life was different and I was single again, I’d do more at LGBT Foundation. My partner and I have been together since 1991 (so long ago!!), but I know if I was single, I’d want more LGBT people in my life. I wouldn’t want to be the only LGBT person at the dance club!
If you’re thinking about volunteering at LGBT Foundation, speak to the Volunteer Programme Team. One of the things we look at in my approach, in the Human-Givens approach is emotional needs met in balance. Well, I know that I benefit from volunteering here. My mental health, my emotional health, my physical health all benefit from having here to come to once per week. So I tell all my clients; “If you have an opportunity to have more stretch, the opportunity to do something beyond yourself. You know, “getting out of self” is a really good idea. It sounds a bit hard-core these days, but not thinking about your own challenges and considering doing something that isn’t directly in your own benefit will do you more good than you can ever imagine.
I would also say to people that are struggling to get back into work; having the reliability requirements of being a volunteer such as working to standards and being part of a team, commitment. Volunteering can help with all of those things. If you’re feeling a bit isolated consider; “Are there ways you can get involved?” You can meet people in a structured, managed way which allows you to orient yourself towards making friends and being part of a team. I would say to anybody, and just to make it clear; you don’t need to be LGBTQI+ to volunteer at LGBT Foundation. If you think have something to offer, there’s room for every level of involvement.