Volunteers Week: How giving up her time turned Sarah’s life around

Foodbank's linchpin boosted her confidence by taking on volunteering role

This week is Volunteers Week and we are highlighting the important role volunteers play in our communities and finding out why they get so much out of donating their time.

Volunteers Week: How giving up her time turned Sarah’s life around

VOLUNTEERING is obviously a huge a help to whichever group someone chooses to give up their time for – but it can also be a transformative experience for the volunteer themselves.

Sarah Willmott (in the centre of the picture above) was a regular visitor to Poole Waste Not Want Not, the foodbank and café charity in Poole High Street.

Her life was in a tailspin and her confidence and self-esteem at a low ebb.

“I was going in to get my shopping every week and I always chatted to the people running it,” she recalled.

“They asked me if I wanted to start volunteering there and I said yes because I wanted to give back something that they’d given me.”

That was 18 months ago and now the confident volunteer, who has become a linchpin of the operation, bears no relation to the shy, reticent woman who first stepped behind the counter.

“When I first started here I wouldn’t say anything to anybody, but it has totally turned my life around,” she said.

“I was in quite a hole and I needed support. I started working here and it changed my life and I’m very grateful to everybody here.”

When I first started here I wouldn’t say anything to anybody, but it has totally turned my life around

Staff member Erika Sloper, who has only been at the charity a few weeks, said when she joined it was obvious Sarah is instrumental to its smooth running.

“She has been such a support to me, she knows what she is doing here and she is brilliant with the customers. She is a really worthy member of our team,” she said.

“She has had her own issues but she has fond that this project has helped her and given her a focus and now she feels part of the community again. I am hoping she can mentor and support new volunteers coming through the programme.”

Sarah said she would recommend anyone tries volunteering. “It’s very rewarding and I like having the responsibilities and being trusted,” she said.

“It can be really busy at times but I enjoy that. I like the people I work with and since I have been working here I have got my confidence back, it has totally turned my life around.”

Volunteers’ Week is supported and celebrated by small grassroots organisations as well as larger, household-name charities, who together run hundreds of activities across the UK. These activities showcase and celebrate volunteers and the contribution volunteering makes in our communities.

Volunteers’ Week 2021 is a time to say thanks. It goes without saying that volunteers have played a key role in the pandemic response. During an exceptionally difficult year, people from all walks of life around the UK have taken the time to volunteer and make a huge difference to their communities – just as they do every year. This is a time for us to come together and thank all volunteers for their invaluable contribution.

This 37th annual Volunteers’ Week is taking place during the #MonthofCommunity. Running throughout June, #MonthOfCommunity brings together organisations with a range of events in order to encourage us all to think about and join in with activities happening in our local communities.

Find volunteering opportunities in Dorset here or in the BCP area here.