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Lauren Stradling of for the curious was Social’s first volunteer back in 2020 and inspired our volunteering leave policy.  She shares her volunteering journey and what it’s meant to her…

Back in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, when queuing at B&Q was a nice excuse to get out of the house, I was one of the employees at Social (and one of millions across the UK at the time) on furlough. It wasn’t an easy time for anyone and the world was a time of worry, uncertainty and YouTube workouts.

Not one to sit around, and quickly growing bored of baking banana bread, I used my time to volunteer for a local charity, Rochdale Connections Trust (RCT), after seeing their callouts on social media, I gave them a call and offered to help deliver their food care packages to service users in and around the Rochdale area. It was a great way to get out of the house and do my bit for the community, and more importantly – putting a smile on people’s (and mine) faces!

Apart from the feelgood factor of putting something back into my community, volunteering also connected me with new friends and contacts, was great for my mental health, and provided a sense of purpose – especially during uncertain times.

Even after returning to work, Social allowed me to still spend an afternoon a week delivering these well-needed care packages which contained anything from meal ingredients and recipes, craft sets and even birthday presents for those children with very little at home.

Once the need for these packages reduced as we began to emerge from lockdown, RCT asked me to stay on as volunteer but this time as a Volunteer Youth Mentor. Of course, I grabbed this opportunity with both hands and was given training by RCT and was paired up with a service user for weekly check-ins and reviews. Thanks to my initial work at RCT, Social had then begun to implement a volunteering policy, providing 5 days of time (used however most practical) to volunteer with registered charities/organisations.

Once the Youth Mentoring had run its course with the service user, I then looked to do something a little different and take on a new challenge. I had more of an interest of into looking at how charities/community projects are ran and funded. So, I had a quick google and contacted Action Together who help funding and provide volunteers for organisations across Rochdale, Oldham and Tameside. They had a vast variety of roles and so I signed up to their ‘Friends Panel’ program.

As a panelist, every week applications from various organisations are shared to the panel and we take it in turns scoring these applications against funding criteria, we’re able to give feedback and help suggest further ways in which the charities can use the funding. It gives me a much broader sense of the activity going on in and around Rochdale and what great work is going on day in day out.

I’m really proud of my volunteering journey so far and even more so as being credited by our founder John Quinton-Barber as being the inspiration behind Social’s volunteering policy, which led to me winning the first Founds Award in 2020!