Placement: Volunteer Women Support Worker
Organisation: Together Women Project
Ideal career: Solicitor
Katie is a 1st year LLB Law student, originally from the North East of England. Katie has always loved to volunteer and did so with the Citizens Advice Bureau before coming to Leeds. Katie applied to a few organisations at the start of the academic year before committing to volunteer with the Together Women Project. TWP work with women experiencing disadvantage and exclusion, and aims to move them in to positive futures. Katie's role as a volunteer is to get involved in the varied work that TWP do to support these women.
Meeting different types of people made me feel more integrated into Leeds life.
I've always loved to volunteer so I knew it was something that I wanted to do when I came to Leeds. At first I applied for loads of places and then I realised it would probably be best for me to stick to one as I wouldn't have the time to do more than one properly. After speaking with the University's Volunteering Hub I decided on TWP due to my personal interests and that many of the women had been involved in the criminal justice system, which would help me with my course.
Before volunteering I chatted with the Key Worker who was responsible for volunteers. It was great because as well as focusing on what the women wanted she spent time working with me on what I wanted to gain from the experience. We focused on the fact that I wanted to work with a wide variety of women, I wanted to enjoy my volunteering and importantly focus on the fact that I wanted to be doing something that was making a difference. I didn't want to be wasting my time, I wanted to make sure that the stuff I was doing mattered.
I then had to do training, this included workshops and learning about important issues such as confidentiality. Once that was done, my first role was working in reception. This was really important as I got to learn about the centre, the activities it runs and the types of women who use the centre which ranges from alcoholics, women whose children have been taken away, those on probation, and those about to go to court. This experience provided a strong foundation before I got onto mentoring.
I am now a mentor at TWP. I work on a one to one basis with women and do a variety of things with them; helping make phone calls to other service providers, filling in applications or helping to increase their confidence levels. For example, I've been helping one woman to create a journal where she can write down her feelings. Most of the time these women just want someone to listen to them. Being a mentor to a woman you really try to empathise with her, to understand her situation. Then from this, together you can work on goals for the future so that they can better their lives and target any problems.
I feel it is extremely important to stress the fact that no matter how much you put in, you will always (always being a very strong word) get so much more out of it than what you put in. I've integrated more into the city and have had the chance to go to court and network with solicitors and barristers which will be really useful for my course.
I have gained so much from volunteering, I am more patient and accepting but what I have gained the most is humility. When one works with people whose lives are full of trials, one starts to realize how fortunate they have been in their lives. This for me is a very strong motivation to offer up my time and talents to someone who has not been given the same opportunities as me.