Volunteering with us is a great way to use your life experience to help make a difference. In this blog, Peer Volunteer Jackie shares what she gets up to in the role and the difference it has made in her own life.
I’ve been a volunteer with The Hepatitis C Trust since March 2023. A friend of mine told me about the work and I thought it sounded interesting. I was given the contact details of Dino, the team leader I would be working with, and heard back from him within a few days. Dino arranged to meet so that we could talk about the volunteer role and what was involved, as well as a bit of information about me and my experiences.
I remember feeling quite anxious as it had been such a long time since I’d been in a work setting. I used drugs for many years and although I’ve managed to hold down various jobs, I had reached an extremely painful rock bottom some years back, both physically and mentally.
I met Dino at London Bridge. I was so nervous but the walk to the café where we were meeting helped calm me somewhat. By the time we reached the café I was ok.
Dino explained the volunteer role to me and asked me some questions about my background. I thought there’d be an issue about me never having had hep C but I was wrong. Because of my experience of drug use, there is still a lot that I am able to offer the Trust in terms of life experience and knowing others who have had the virus.
To my amazement, I was offered the opportunity to start volunteering.
My first day out was amazing. We went to a hostel and met with service users, talked to them and explained who we were and why we were there. We managed to test some people and got a couple of positive antibody tests. If someone does have hepatitis C, the Trust is able to support them onto and through treatment.
Working as a volunteer at The Hepatitis C Trust has turned my life around. I wake up with a sense of purpose every day.
By the end of the first day, I was dizzy with excitement. I’d done my first day volunteering and it felt great to be doing something to make a difference in people’s lives. I went to bed feeling good about myself too and as if I was turning a corner in my own life.
Since that first day, I’ve had the full induction training which was great. It gave me a greater understanding of hepatitis C as a virus and all the implications. I also found out more about the Trust and the other work that goes on.
As well as going out and speaking to people about hepatitis C, I’ve also gone out with the NHS Find and Treat team and done questionnaires with people on the bus where liver testing and tests for blood-borne viruses occur.
Even though I am volunteering, I’m given lots of opportunities to contribute to the work of the Trust at various meetings. It makes me feel like my opinion matters and as if I’m a part of the wider team.
When challenging issues do come up, I feel confident in speaking up if something is bothering me and feel like I’ve been listened to.
Working as a volunteer at The Hepatitis C Trust has turned my life around. I wake up with a sense of purpose every day. I feel supported by my team leader Dino and peer support worker Chris as well as the Trust as a whole.
I’d encourage anyone interested to volunteer with the Trust – you’ll feel like the work you do is really worthwhile and it helps to make a difference in the lives of lots of people – including your own.