What volunteering means to me
At Scottish Autism we manage two One Stop Shops, which are funded under the Scottish Government’s Strategy for Autism, one in Lanarkshire that I manage and another in Fife. The One Stop Shops are information hubs for individuals with autism, their families and professionals, offering advice and support as well as signposting to other services in the area. The One Stop Shops are an integral part of the community and in order to ensure their day to day running volunteers will often help us out, giving up their own time to make a difference to the lives of others.
Some of our volunteers have autism themselves, some are parents or carers and others are just willing to give up a few hours of their week to help out in their community but whatever brings a volunteer to the One Stop Shop, they are all wonderful people who make a huge difference.
I caught up with some of the volunteers from our One Stop Shop’s recently to find out what volunteering means to them…
Connor (pictured above) has autism and volunteers two days a week the Lanarkshire One Stop Shop. Following a year of volunteering, we were recently able to offer Connor a temporary admin post one day a week:
‘I have been volunteering at the One Stop Shop for the past year. This has helped me gain and improve my interpersonal skills, which I can transfer over into other workplaces. Before I volunteered here I had no real experience of working in an office environment so working for the OSS has helped me gain experience of working as part of a team and also increase my knowledge of administration techniques and processes. I have also gained more confidence in my ability to take calls since I started volunteering.
My favourite part of volunteering has been getting to know the people who work here and the different people who use the service. I also enjoy acting as a first point of contact for the OSS. Overall I have found volunteering very rewarding and I am happy that I have the chance to work with the staff and all the people who access the service.’
Tom also has autism and has been volunteering at the Lanarkshire One Stop Shop as part of his school work experience:
‘I have been volunteering at the OSS for almost half a year. It is an opportunity I am pleased I never missed as it has helped me grow confident in my abilities, improve my administration proficiency and learn new things along the way. Prior to the experience I did not have any volunteering experience, working in a team or confidence of working in an office environment, especially with colleagues I had never interacted with before. My favourite thing about the volunteering is that I can operate on my own, procuring assistance if needed. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity.’
Michael works for Scottish Autism and volunteers at the One Stop Shop in Fife:
"I have been volunteering at the OSS for just over a year. What have I gained from this? Well the major thing is the confidence. After a long period of mental health problems, volunteering gave me the confidence I needed to apply for a full time job with Scottish Autism, which I got. Yet, volunteering means so much more. I have met people I would now consider friends, I have learned about autism and how to support people on the spectrum and I have built up my ability to work in a team.
I have grown so much because of my work at the OSS and I’ve met some great people in the staff team as well as the individuals who use the service and their families. Nothing beats the good times I have had working here, from laughing and having a good time to being able to help someone with a problem or just giving a little support when things are hard. Even though I am now working full time with Scottish Autism I will always try to volunteer when I can because it’s just so important to me."
Finally, Moira has a son with autism and volunteers at the Fife One Stop Shop:
"I started volunteering at the OSS in the summer of 2014 after 20 years out of the job market. My son is 17 and has recently been diagnosed with autism.
On a personal level I already feel so much better about myself through learning admin tasks and greeting the variety of individuals who access the OSS. This boost in confidence has spilled over into all aspects of my life and has given me a much more positive outlook to my future employability.
When my son was first diagnosed I was not prepared for the rollercoaster of emotions I was going to experience, nor the constant barrage of questions that I had. My volunteering took on a new dimension as I started to access the drop-in days to talk over my own concerns. The staff are not only incredibly knowledgeable but are unconditional in their support. They have made my transition into understanding my son and his ASD diagnosis so much less painful.
Giving my time freely makes me feel so good as I know my time will free up the OSS staff to do the invaluable work they do every day to support us all. Volunteering has turned out to be a gift that I will always carry with me."
In Lanarkshire and also in Fife, we also have several other volunteers who very kindly donate their time to keep things running smoothly. We really appreciate each and every person who helps us out –we really couldn’t do this without you!
If you are interested in volunteering at our Fife or Lanarkshire One Stop Shops, we would love to hear from you! Please contact the service directly by emailing email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.