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Volunteers' week: Volunteering has given me a future.
Louisa Danby, the assistant manager of our Ilford shop, explains how volunteering has turned her life around...
I had been unemployed for two years and I asked to be placed in voluntary work to keep me busy. I'd done voluntary work before, so I knew that I enjoyed helping and giving something back to the community, as well as meeting new people. Crucially though, it kept me motivated, ensured I kept a working pattern and enabled me to gain valuable experience for work. It was a reason to get up in the morning.
I was placed in the Saint Francis Hospice shop in Harold Hill, which is near to where I live - and it more than exceeded my expectations. I was welcomed as part of the team straight away, got on well with all the staff and was taught a lot from the manager. I did this for 18 months and within that time I became a 'Voluntary Supervisor' and was trusted to be cover the shop while the managers had their meetings.
It built my confidence and I learnt so much that I felt I could apply for the assistant manager jobs when they came up. It was a case of 'third time lucky' for me, as I was offered the role for our Ilford shop.
In the first two weeks of starting, I set the shop up with the merchandising in time for the opening and ran it for six weeks - bearing in mind I have never been a manager before! I was then joined by my manager Mary, with whom I enjoy and love working alongside.
Two years on, I'm still happily employed at our Ilford shop, where I cover managers and other assistants over our 16 shops.
I couldn't fault my time here. I would recommend anyone who is willing to apply themselves and who is willing to put in time and effort for an opportunity to volunteer with an organisation such as Saint Francis Hospice. It is the best thing that has happened to me and it has changed my life for the better. It's taken me off benefits, given me confidence, a career and a future.
Interested in volunteering in our shops? We'd love to hear from you. Visit our retail volunteers page for more information.