Never Compare

I know i shouldn’t really compare volunteering experiences, but i got a very welcoming email that kind of sparked this discussion.

I thought i’d write a little about my volunteering experiences with
The Cedar foundation
Guide dogs
I’ll probably get into some kind of trouble but i’ll not give any names, and i will try not to be too negative.

The Cedar Foundation

I think it was in my last couple of years of school, I was with a group of people with other disabilities. We used to use the Cedar foundations building as a meeting point and one day we went there to try and design a website for young people, as well as it being accessible for disabled people. Looking back, i think it was the
Volunteer Now website
We were looking at which encourages people to volunteer.

A couple of weeks later I got a call from the volunteer coordinator at the Cedar foundation asking if i would like to volunteer. (I’ll call her M). The IT officer who is in charge of the computer part of Cedar had seen me working so well evaluating the website that he wanted me to help teach him and possibly some clients JAWS and the computer. I said that would be fine, and did a couple of days here and there. I even received an
Award Of Excellence
Back in 2008 for completing 200 hours of volunteering. I also did
A couple of days
of my work experience there. I started writing up resources on how to use a computer and that has continued when I didn’t have anyone to teach. I might put those up sometime, but they probably need updating. I must remind you that i haven’t got any qualifications, but was just going on what i knew.

I think it must have been the following September i decided to volunteer for what started as half a day each week teaching people and writing up resources. I’m afraid that over the two years i volunteered for Cedar my time increased to two and a half days teaching 4 people. Just before i went off to get Ushi, J (The IT officer) wanted me to teach three or four people in the one day. I thought then that something needed to change.

Maybe part of that was my fault, but i felt i was taken advantage of. I also found out that J is no longer teaching what my now friend wants to learn. Before i left, i had her doing email and stuff. Now she has barely done email and they are all doing the same things it seems. She has been shown a complicated way to get into her emails, which isn’t what i orriginally taught her. I told her when seeing her recently to do what she is comfortable with.

The volunteer coordinator even had the nerve to come out a few months to the house to see if i wanted to come back volunteering. I said i didn’t, and she said that Cedar could pay for me to do a course in teaching or something. I just said that i couldn’t and needed to move on, and she left quite sharply after that. Cedar even wanted me to teach something called “Clait” which i am not qualified to do!

I often braught up the subject of paid work, but i was always met with “That won’t be on the agenda”. Cedar was able to pay for taxis for all their clients so i don’t know why this wasn’t “on the agenda”. Maybe i was being selfish for thinking it should have been.

I did get a christmas card and was taken out to lunch each year at christmas time, plus i got to go to social events, but i just felt that when they said my work was appreciated, that it was a standard card sent out to all volunteers.

I did get one last email asking me if i would complete a volunteer evaluation form, but i felt i couldn’t be honest, so didn’t complete the form.

Not all of that experience was bad though and i did gain alot of experience which will be useful if i do want to teach in the future. I didn’t realise i’d written so much. I haven’t put in names though to protect the inocent. I am expecting trouble though. I didn’t know i could rant so much! I wasn’t sure whether to write this post.


Guide dogs

First of all, i’m not saying that it is a better experience volunteering with guide dogs just because i am a guide dog owner, but i deffinetly feel it has been a much more positive one.

Because of the changes that are taking place at guide dogs at the moment, all volunteers are required to be registered and carry ID. This is if we are doing talks, for instance, or even just for fundraising.

Over here and all across the UK, in fact, a guide dog owner doesn’t have to fundraise, but if they choose to, they must wait until after the first 6 months of qualification. This is to make sure that you and the dog are comfortable with each other, and that is with any dog no matter if it is your first or 5th.

I decided that after my 6 months, i would fundraise. I just did it before and had no idea that i needed to be registered. What we fundraise is totally up to us and there is no pressure if we want to do something or we don’t. (I still don’t do street collections, but will collect in a supermarket or a shopping centre.). But everyone is cool with that and no one cares or asks questions.

I happened to mention in passing one day about volunteering, and a couple of days later i got an email from the regional volunteer manager who covers Northern Ireland, part of England and part of Scotland. It was my registration form and safeguarding form. I was then asked to give two referees, so i sent them off. Within 2 days i had another email asking about a photo for my ID card and that my referees had been confirmed. I then got an agreement i had to sign, and last week i braught it to get signed by someone in the team. Now i’m just waiting for my ID card.

I got an email today telling me that i was invited to use
The volunteer extranet
Which has forums and news for volunteers at any time. While i might not use this that often, it might be a useful resource to have.

We can also claim expenses if say for instance, we are away for a lon day (for instance food).

I think this is a much better approach, and i now that i can in fact say no, and nobody will mind. I know that i really can do as much or as little as i want with Guide dogs.

I really am not just saying this to please people or because i am a guide dog owner.

I know i should never compare, but sometimes, it’s just a natural thing. Volunteering should be as much or as little as you want to give and you should never feel pressurised into doing anything you are not comfortable with.

Sorry this is such a rambly post.