Now if you know me, you’ll know that I’m a volunteering junkie! I love volunteering.
Being a volunteer has been part of my life for nearly half a decade and I’m proud of that!
Sophie Hopkins loves volunteering too! She’s been a volunteer with many different organisations for over a decade!
Here’s what she had to say!
What is your name, age and volunteer role/roles?
I’m Sophie Hopkins, I’m 21 and I’m a:
Media Ambassador, campaigner, fundraiser, board member, expert by experience, drop-in assistant, youth club assistant, walking leader, young verifier, youth leader, event speaker, shop assistant, shop supervisor, blogger, website assistant, outreach assistant, young interviewer AND crew member!
Who do you currently volunteer for?
The Foyer Federation for the Change Your Mind about Young People project. I also volunteer with them as a Youth Ambassador, Event Speaker, Youth Leader and Young Verifier.
Youth Focus North East as a Talent Match Ambassador, a Change Ur Mind board member, a Well Being Challenge Day steering group member and a Mind Ur Moustache supporter.
Young Minds. I help out with Young Minds VS as well as being a Young Minds Youth Media Ambassador, as a Head Mead and as a fundraiser.
Dustan Drop In – I’m a drop-in assistant, a youth club assistant and a walking leader.
The Peoples Kitchen – I volunteer as an outreach assistant.
Charity Shops – I work in the Scope, Oxfam, British Heart Foundation and F.A.C.T charity shops.
Speak Out – I’m a website assistant for them.
West End Youth Enquiry Service – I work with Health Watch and am a young interviewer.
When did you start volunteering?
I started at the age of 12 by helping out on my lunch and breaks at school. I worked on the school reception as a student reception assistant and as a library monitor in the school library.
I also helped the house managers, my own house Corinthians with house boards and sometimes the bags for lunch due, by making sure all bags were neatly in corridor.
I also helped Romans House manager with her day to day tasks of sorting lost property out.
I volunteered to represent Corinthians in most house events whether participating or supporting in some way.
I helped at harvest festival times and it was when I left I realised how valuable the harvest festival was and that’s when I continued.
My work in the mental health sector has been spurred by my bad experiences at school. Volunteering at school helped me escape and I wanted to help others to escape.
How did you get into volunteering?
I was severly bullied at school and was so scared to go out into the school yard on my breaks that I felt safe being around adults.
I started to refuse to go into school because I was scared to be outside and reception approached me about doing regular work on reception and I enjoyed it so much I continued through my school years.
I then applied to do library work when I was in year 8 and continued volunteering in reception and in the library so I was safe around adults.
There was always work with house managers too.
When I left school I realised I needed experience and wanted to help people who suffered from mental health problems and bullying and found there was plenty of ways I could do that and couldn’t decide. I took on as many as I could as it got addictive and wanted to help as many people as I could.
What do you like about volunteering and your volunteer role/roles?
I know my time I use to volunteer is valued and the work I do is either making change or helping other young people to overcome a barrier they have had or are having in life.
When I talk about my experience I know that what am saying will have some impact on decision makers and may impact changes that need to be made.
I love the feeling I get when I see someone else benefit from what I am doing.
What I do and say is making a difference and could make big changes for the generations to come.
I hope I am inspiring young people to volunteer and to ignore the bad stigma around mental health and volunteering and no matter who they are or what they do, they can go with their heart and make changes themselves no matter their ages.
It makes me happy I feel free from my personal issues.
The people I meet are great too! I met my best friend through volunteering.
I also like the achievements, knowledge and experience I have gained from it and the contacts I have met.
What are some of the challenges of volunteering/your volunteer role/roles?
In one of my roles when I finish I have a bed to sleep in and I get 3 cooked meals a day, clothes and warmth and knowing that others don’t is hard. Leaving the role at the centre and not going home worrying about the people I met and what they are doing if they will be ok wherever there sleeping is challenging.
Trying not getting too emotionally involved is hard too. Some roles allow me to, if it’s an expert by experience role but other roles I can’t. Sometimes it’s hard and it’s knowing the barriers especially if it hits me personally.
Sometimes I do too much and it is knowing when to take a break and when to stop. It’s about knowing my priorities and managing my volunteering.
* How has volunteering helped you?
Volunteering has given me the skills and experience to gain employment and achieve my education goals. It have really given me the confidence boost I needed and made me believe in myself more.
Volunteering has made me who I am today and has really developed my abilities.
I have gained a lot out of it.
I have gained many qualifications like first aid, food safety, competent crew (sailing crew member) and skills like leadership, mentoring, befriending, public speaking and event management.
It has given me the chance to experience what the right future for me is and where I want to go.
All of my friends come from volunteering too. I’ve met people who respect me for who I am.
I have achieved so much through volunteering.
I have had the chance for my story to be published in a national newspaper and to talk about it on Live BBC Breakfast Newcastle. It was about the issues of mental health not being educated in schools. Now there are talks of it changing so being able to say I was part of that I am so proud of myself to do that.
I’ve also gained two national awards. Firstly the national citizenship service award for my work within the community and the skills I gained. I was part of the very first group to take part in this award, presented by David Cameron.
My biggest achievement and my most proudest was being nominated for the 2014 Inspired national volunteer of the year awards. I won for Bringing Communities Back Together category and representing the North East of England has really shown I am valued in today’s world no matter what others think.
I have references for my future work too among many more!
Why do you volunteer in the sector you volunteer in?
There is one simple reason why I volunteer in the youth sector and that is because I have personal experience of being vulnerable.
I am a mental health suffer, I have had bad experiences growing up, I have issues I want corrected and I want people to know that if I can do it anyone can.
Also I can connect with young people and I know change is needed to happen and have personal reasons, so get more out of it and can put more in.
I don’t want anyone to go through what I did. I want things to change and only those who experienced things know what needs changing. I grew up around certain organisations at school like the Peoples Kitchen and wanted to continue the work I started at school.
Describe a typical day as a volunteer.
I volunteer in a variety of settings but all of the settings require me to be flexible.
No two days are the same.
I could be in a GP practice doing surveys one day, the next I could be interviewing staff or even at events and talking about the work I do and why I do it.
Some days I could be at W.E.Y.E.S in the morning either working on one of their projects or representing them at a conference.
Then I could have a lunch meeting with Foyer federation; volunteering for Oxfam in the afternoon and at the People’s Kitchen in the evening.
Other days I could just have a talk or an event. It is very rare, unless it’s a Sunday which is when I get time off. A Sunday help me recover from the week but even then I organise my week and if it’s the summer I am usually at some sort of event spreading awareness or raising funds or recruiting more volunteers.
Because I am so committed I don’t mind that sometimes I go weeks without a rest because I believe in the work I do and want to make a difference.
Any advice for people who want to volunteer?
Go for it! If you’re not sure try a variety of different roles. If one doesn’t work, then try another. There are different roles for different types of people.
Also, start small then work your way up don’t jump in at the deep end.
Offer what you are good at, be prepared to learn and mostly have fun!