Four weeks ago, we wrote about the latest group of volunteers to start at Gateway under the EAST (Employment Access Skills and Training) programme. Now, having completed their volunteer training, our newcomers are starting to get out and about, working with people in the community who are isolated and need a friend.
One of the new volunteers is Corinne Gooden. She already works full time at a library – and it was here that she saw a poster for the befriender programme.
“I’ve been working towards a new career path for a while,” she explains. “I graduated in Communications in 2008, but it was the sociology and psychology parts of the course that really interested me. So that’s the direction I’m taking now.
“I recently completed a counselling course and I saw Gateway’s volunteering scheme as the ideal opportunity to back it up with some work experience.”
All 20 EAST volunteers started their placement with a week’s induction, followed by volunteer training, and are now working on their accredited Employability course. The course continues whilst they are out supporting clients so they can provide evidence-based work to support their portfolio.
But for Gateway’s volunteers, it’s about gaining more than just certificates.
“Gateway’s training prepares you for this type of work practically, but also emotionally,” says Corinne. “We’ve covered things like confidentiality, equality and diversity, but also how to prepare ourselves mentally for this type of work. We’ve learned how to step back and think about why a client might be acting in a particular way. And we’ve done a lot of work on boundaries; how to listen and empathise whilst maintaining a professional distance.”
Last week, Corinne spent a day shadowing one of the Pregnancy Outreach Workers. They visited a young mother living in a hostel with her six week old baby – a situation that might be quite emotionally charged for someone that wasn’t ready. But Corinne felt prepared and found the visit very positive as it was clear the woman was getting good support.
“I am feeling more and more confident about this sort of work now,” says Corinne. “I’ve already learnt a lot in the short time I’ve been with Gateway, and the practical experience is invaluable.”