As part of my recent RVA Youth project I was given the opportunity to find out about the work of Parents and Children Together (PACT). As well as finding out about the Alana House programme, I had the opportunity to speak with PACT reception volunteer John Southern.
How did you get involved in volunteering?
Ah, let me think, it was on the volunteers directory and I came along here for an interview about 18 months ago. I really wanted to have at least one day a week when I was coming into Reading Town Centre and actually getting involved with a busy office that was running with a job to do and so forth.
“I’m retired, which means that I’ve got quite a bit of time on my hands, so I also volunteer at 3 other places in addition to PACT”
What is your role as a volunteer at PACT?
Reception, and there’s all sorts of other things, so sometimes I’ll be putting data in spreadsheets, things to do with fire notices and opening post, logging it in and distributing that. Sometimes this work involves hosting meetings – yeah, a whole variety of things really to help people.
There’s a programme they run called Bounce Back For Kids, so mums and teachers will fill out forms which describe how a child is feeling and responding after they’ve been the subject of or have observed domestic abuse. Those forms come to me, they are confidential, and then I use a computer program to score them and they then monitor the children through the programme, called play therapy, they can then do the questionnaire again and they can see what progress has been made by the children.
So, I get a sense of what PACT are doing as well as providing a support function.
What do you get out of volunteering?
It keeps me learning new things, like I’ve learnt a lot about Excel spreadsheets which I never knew before. I’ve obviously learnt about the work that they do and I’ve met a lot of very pleasant people here to work with. It’s that really, working with a lot of very pleasant people, helping them do things which they’re always very grateful for, of course.
I didn’t anticipate this when I retired, but if you don’t get out and volunteer, you’re stuck in the suburbs, and one of the things about the suburbs, especially during work days, is that there’s almost nobody there, it’s very dead and so if you spend all your time in the suburbs then you tend to switch off, even in your own mind you get dulled, so it’s great to be able to get out at least one day a week like this to busy you up.
“I’d say, if anything, that I’m naturally slightly introverted, and so doing the volunteering really brings me out of my shell”
If a friend or colleague came to you with an interest in volunteering, what would you say to them?
I’d mention pretty much all the things that I’ve talked about already, that it makes them pay an interest in areas of work that perhaps they haven’t been involved with during their working lives at all. All the places I volunteer at I find that people are very welcoming.
How important are volunteers to our community as a whole?
Well, I think tremendously because, well, we don’t charge, but we’re helping things to run, which otherwise might mean that financially some organisations might have to reduce the service they offer. So I think it’s immensely important for both sides… it’s very beneficial.
Inspired? Current opportunities with PACT include:
- Help us make our drop-in sessions a welcoming, warm and safe place to visit
- Help our team to provide a smooth, professional and efficient service
- Warm, friendly and efficient – Join our receptionist team!
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