Amy Speakman began volunteering at her local Barnardo’s shop as part of her college course, hoping to gain some life skills and valuable work experience.
But she made such an impression at the children’s charity shop in Connahs Quay in Flintshire, North Wales, that she was offered a paid job that she loves. Now, in Student Volunteering Week (20th to 26th February) she is recommending volunteering to other students as a way of picking up the essential skills they need for their CVs.
Amy volunteered as part of a traineeship course at Coleg Cambria (formerly Deeside College) which introduces students unsure of what they want to do to a wide range of experiences to help them choose their future career paths.
Speaking about her experience, Amy said: “I decided that retail was what I wanted to do but everywhere wants experience and I didn’t have any. I decided to volunteer and thought that if I chose a charity they would benefit as well as me.
“I loved it at Barnardo’s, being part of a team of different ages and backgrounds taught me so much, it really helped me grow as a person. I loved talking to customers while encouraging them to sign up for gift aid helped me grow in confidence,” said Amy, 18.
And it wasn’t just practical skills such as working a till that she discovered.
"Teaching young people to give back is important. It taught me to be able to put my phone away for a few hours and give my attention to the community that surrounds me. It did so much for my confidence and it has made me a more generous and considerate person,” she said.
After completing a business course back in college she was offered a retail job with Next which she held for nine months, but when she heard there was a paid vacancy for an assistant at Barnardo’s children’s shop in Connahs Quay she leapt at the chance.
"I always said that if a paid opportunity came up I would go back because I had enjoyed volunteering so much, I felt I was making a difference in the world. My manager Alyshea Brawn is really supporting me, I’m making decisions and learning so much,” said Amy.
And to other potential volunteers she said: "To be able to give even two hours a week is so beneficial to both yourself and Barnardo’s. You’ll learn and develop skills, and you’ll meet other like-minded people that you otherwise may not have had the opportunity to meet.”
Debbie Easthope, Amy’s store manager at the time of her volunteering, said: "Amy always liked getting involved in finding new ways for the store to make money. It was great having someone so enthusiastic and outgoing in the store”.