Hilary’s Story

During the pandemic it became normal to stay at home but when things opened up, I found it really difficult. After being in hospital, I lost all my confidence and just couldn’t go out at all. I’ve suffered with anxiety and really debilitating panic attacks for quite a few years. I have lots of support from my family but wanted to make some real changes in my life. One of the Nurses suggested volunteering and put me in touch Liz at CAN. We met for a coffee and Liz asked me about what I’d done before and what I’d like to do now. When I was younger, I’d worked at Beales in Bournemouth, so I quite liked the idea of getting back in to retail.

Liz told me about the Step Forward project and how volunteering can be a first step to gaining experience, learning new skills and getting back into work. We tried a couple of places and then Liz introduced me to The Dorset Children’s Foundation, a local charity that works to improve the lives of children with disabilities and their families. They have three charity shops, in Southbourne, Boscombe and the Sovereign Centre.

Liz came with me for the first few sessions and although I was really nervous to start with, as soon as I met the shop Manager Jayne and Deputy Manager Paulene they made me feel so welcome. I started by sorting donations and steaming clothes. Paulene showed me what to do and I got the hang of it pretty much straight away. When sorting donations, I know what will sell and they trust me to make a decision. At first I was adamant that I wasn’t going on to the till, but Paulene has a way of gently pushing you and giving you confidence. Now I work on the till with another volunteer and we support each other. It’s lovely being part of the team and they know I’ll just get on with any job that needs doing.

My daughter has noticed a big difference. I have much more confidence. Not only have I got my certificate and accreditation that shows what I’ve achieved but it’s helped with things that other people might take for granted. I take the bus to the shop which was really hard before but the more I did it, the easier it got.  I’m motivated to go out and love my two days at the shop. My favourite part is face to face contact and you have regular customers who always stop for a chat and a laugh.

Volunteering is a great idea. It gets you out of the house and you feel a real sense of purpose. It’s a good idea to include the things you like doing and use the skills you have but don’t be afraid to try something new. I was always told off for talking in school, but I love meeting people and chatting, so the shop is perfect.

My advice would be, take the first step and give it a go. With CAN’s help you’ll find a role that feels comfortable, that’s the right place for you, where get back as much as you give.

Pauline Chambers, Deputy Shop Manager

Pauline Chambers, Deputy Shop Manager, The Dorset Children’s Foundation, said: “When Hilary first started with us she wanted to stay in the store room tagging clothes but over the weeks her confidence has grown and she’s learnt so much in a short space of time. She just gets on with what needs to be done and now works face to face with customers. We’ve been so impressed and appreciate all her hard work. She’s really capable and has the potential to do more. I’ve loved getting to know Hilary – she’s comfortable with us and is just a fantastic member of the team.”