A Day in the Life of a Volunteer

Gabriella Otim-Oyet is a volunteer at Safe Haven – our crisis café – based at Trevayler in Derby.

I started volunteering as I was interested to see and play a part in mental health care after the pandemic brought these issues to the forefront more than ever. I too understood how isolating the pandemic has been, and I wanted a way to connect with people in my local community too. When I saw there is some focus on mindfulness and breathing techniques as coping strategies I was completely sold as this is quite an area of interest for me.

At the moment I am learning, getting an understanding of the client pathways at Safe Haven, the software and processes used and how I can play a role as a volunteer supporting the recovery worker on shift with me – I usually worked paired up with the lovely Mariya who is a recovery worker. I usually arrive on site around 1630, just after I finish work – by which time usually Maria is already at her desk in the office sorting through any referrals that may have been made over the day for our service which starts in the late afternoon until the end of the night each day. When I get in we usually have a chat about how many referrals we’ve had so far, sorting through any relevant paperwork together and planning what tasks need to be done in which order – particularly on the nights where telephone support and face to face support may be going on simultaneously and so getting timings right can be really useful to help avoid becoming overwhelmed and ensure we are giving the best quality we possibly can.

When someone is referred into the service and arrives for face-to-face counsel it is my job to support Mariya in her role by providing greeting, company and a hot drink to our client(s) as she organises and prioritises what actions may be most helpful for the client and case at hand. I sometimes will sit in whilst chatting openly with the client and providing a listening ear or as Maria chats through coping strategies and safety planning for example. So far, I have found that above all else it has been great to be able to support in making our clients feel listened to and supported whilst also helping Mariya who can quickly become very busy working between the referral inbox, telephone support and face to face support. It is interesting that no matter what someone is going through you can almost always find some form of common ground and understanding of where they are coming from; and whilst you cannot magic problems away you can always help clients to frame their problems and themselves in a slightly different way and from a different perspective.

During a shift with fewer or no referrals into our service, I try and keep busy by checking through any training I need to get done or catching up on any e-mails I’ve received into my RF volunteer inbox about events and opportunities going on at the moment for volunteers. I also really enjoy reading through some of the resources that we support clients with, as I find them interesting and helpful too! I love to hear about new breath work techniques and exercises and find that activities like goal-setting using short term, medium term and long-templates are helpful for me too in organising my own thoughts and plans. Most recently I did a goal setting template for my volunteering and what skills I feel I need to develop to become more capable and knowledgeable in how to support Recovery Workers and clients when on shift at Safe Haven.

As the shift winds up, I tend to double check anything I can help Mariya with or if any new referrals have entered the inbox since we have been busy, wrap up what I am doing and head home around 2030.