A devoted mum says volunteering in a charity shop helped her children deal with anxiety and develop social skills. Kate Williamson is a valued member of the volunteer team at East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices’ (EACH) Poringland shop.
She lends her support twice a week, on a Thursday afternoon and all day Saturday, and has previously been joined by twins Rhiannon and Rhys, now 20, and daughter Elizabeth, 18.
All three happily gave their time and got the volunteering bug after needing to complete work experience while at school.
“Volunteering is something we’ve all enjoyed together, as a family,” said Kate, who lives in Alpington.
“It’s had a big impact on us all. All my children suffered from anxiety. Their social skills weren’t great and they lacked confidence. The shop helped coax them out of their shells because they were suddenly in a position where they were interacting with people.
“It didn’t happen straight away and to start with they were very shy, barely talking unless they were spoken to and only replying by saying ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘thank you’.
“However, that quickly changed, and within time, they were having full-on conversations with people.”
Kate feels others in a similar position would enjoy similar benefits and was speaking during EACH’s ‘Be the difference’ campaign – a volunteer recruitment drive running until the end of October.
“Rhiannon, Rhys and Elizabeth enjoyed meeting customers and making friends and their confidence flourished,” she said.
“Not many teenagers would be pleased to get an alarm call on a Saturday morning. However, my three loved it. They were up before me and clock-watching because they knew the shop opened at 9am.
“Despite a difficult start to life, they’ve stepped up to the plate and made real progress. I’m immensely proud of them and all three have taken those skills into adulthood and their university and college lives.”
Like her children, Kate feels she benefits enormously from volunteering and would encourage others to get involved.
“Would I recommend it to others? 100%,” said the 59-year-old, who has been helping in the shop for three and a half years.
“It’s enjoyable, rewarding and great fun. My message to anyone would be to give it a try because they won’t regret a thing. I absolutely love it and find it thoroughly enjoyable.
“I’ve got to know so many wonderful people, making some great friends, and love chatting to the customers. It feels like I’m part of a family and if I’m having a tough time I know I can always ring someone from the shop, be it staff or one of my fellow volunteers.
“They’ll always lend a friendly ear or reply with some good advice. Life can be a battle sometimes but it’s always good to talk.”
For more information about volunteering, speak to a member of staff in-store or contact volunteer services on 01223 205183. Alternatively, email email@example.com
To find your nearest EACH shop, head here.