Introduction

Karl first began receiving support from Richmond Fellowship in 2016 after being out of work for many years.

Fast forward two years and he now works as a Peer Support Coordinator at Kirklees Employment Service in Yorkshire. Below, Karl shares his experience of volunteering with Richmond Fellowship and explains how it has helped him get where he is today.

Karl’s story

I first began receiving support from Richmond Fellowship in May 2016. After struggling with mental ill health and being unable to work for more than 20 years, I was referred to Richmond Fellowship by my therapist. With the enthusiastic and supportive guidance of my Employment Adviser, I began the first tentative steps in my recovery journey. I attended a number of courses organised by Richmond Fellowship, specifically designed to help me rebuild my confidence, remain well and develop the practical skills to help me attain either voluntary or paid employment.

Witnessing the inspirational ways in which volunteers co-facilitated these groups alongside full time members of staff, led me to enquire about the voluntary opportunities available at Richmond Fellowship. It was at this point that I was introduced to the then Peer Support Coordinator in the Kirklees area. Her understanding, empathy, kindness and faith in my abilities gave me the self belief and strength to apply for the role of a volunteer.

"The time, effort and investment given to me as a volunteer has continued in my new position as Peer Support Co‐ordinator, with endless support from my colleagues and wide ranging training opportunities." Karl

After completing the application process I began my volunteer role, which involved assisting people we support with a basic IT course. The experience I gained in this supportive environment enabled me to further develop my self belief and confidence in my own abilities. I went on to volunteer on other courses and this culminated in my enrolment on the Level 2 accredited volunteer training course, where I developed a range of new skills and improved existing ones. I found this to be an extremely rewarding and eye-opening experience, causing me to realise just how far I had come on my recovery journey.

Not long after this, my Peer Support Coordinator told me that she was going on maternity leave for a year and with her encouragement, I was able to draw on my newly awakened sense of self worth and my positive experiences as a volunteer to apply for her post. Much to my surprise and excitement, I was not only shortlisted for interview but was actually offered the job!

I have found my role as Peer Support Coordinator to be a thoroughly enjoyable, enriching and positive experience. I look forward to going to work every day and I also have the privilege of helping other people (both people using our services and volunteers) on their own individual recovery journeys.

Reflecting on the past year and a half has made me fully appreciate the invaluable role that volunteers play in supporting both the staff team and the people we support. Without meaning to sound overly dramatic, Richmond Fellowship and the services it provides has transformed my life completely and enabled me to leave my debilitating mental health issues in the past.

"Without meaning to sound overly melodramatic, Richmond Fellowship and the service it provides to both the people we support and its volunteers has changed my life completely and enabled me to leave my debilitating mental health issues in the past." Karl Volunteer with us
Working with Karl
Steven Blinston, Team Manager

I first began working with Karl in 2016 as his Employment Adviser. When I met him, he was a very shy and withdrawn person and lacked self belief and confidence in himself.

I worked with him alongside the then Peer Support Coordinator to build up his confidence and to a point where he felt able to begin attending many of the courses that we run here at Kirklees. Over time, we watched him grow and come out of his shell. He started taking up the volunteering opportunities available at Richmond Fellowship and he was a great asset to our team. As his confidence grew and grew, he took further advantage of the opportunities available to him and successfully completed the accredited volunteer training course.

In 2017 Karl’s predecessor made him aware that she was leaving the post and encouraged him to apply for the role of Peer Support Coordinator. Karl submitted his application and was successful at interview. He has now been in post for 15 months and has fitted in very well as part of the team. We are all very proud of what Karl has achieved in the short time he has been with us; he is an inspiration to us all.

Looking to the future

Although initially employed on a temporary contract, Karl has recently been confirmed as a permanent member of staff. Throughout his time as Peer Support Coordinator, he has completed a number of training and development courses including: Train the Trainer, Recruitment and Selection, Suicide Intervention and he will soon be participating in the Deliver and Assessing course, which will enable him to run the accredited volunteer training for his own volunteers at Kirklees.

As well as taking part in many of the courses himself, Karl also continues to work hard to look at new ways of involving the people we support, through improving existing training courses and creating new ones to meet people’s individual needs and goals.

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