Stories and feedback from WHC volunteers


She cannot just walk on by

Jean joined Wycombe Homeless Connection after she heard about it at her church. She has been one of the unsung volunteers who keep the WHC “back office” running smoothly – handling umpteen vital tasks like acknowledging donations and recording the different ways we support each individual. Jean appreciates the chance to help others, and really enjoys supporting WHC staff so that they are able to assist homeless people to find a roof. Jean also volunteers in WHC’s winter night shelter, helping to provide a warm, life-saving welcome. She has learned that she cannot just walk on by when she sees someone in need on the street; she has to stop whenever she can.

 

“It’s humbling to realise how incredibly fortunate most of us are”

“My favourite time when volunteering is seeing the guests settle down to play a game, have a chat, read or just relax after a hot meal on a night with really horrible weather outside . It’s so satisfying when you think of what limited options would be available if the shelter wasn’t there. You can easily pass by a homeless person on the street without knowing it, but after helping out at the winter shelter, you’ll be aware of the number of people who are trying to just survive out there. It’s humbling to realise how incredibly fortunate most of us are to have a warm, safe place to which we can go. Giving that up for a shift at the shelter to help our guests share a little of that warmth and security is so very rewarding.” – Clive

 

“I’ve been impressed by the friendliness, passion and professionalism of the staff”

Hannah joined WHC as a Volunteer Promotional Writer and was thrilled to help raise awareness of homelessness in the area by working with staff to create leaflets and newsletters. With a background in publishing and journalism, she was eager to keep her writing skills sharp, while also hoping to become more involved in the High Wycombe community after moving to the area. She says: “Since I started volunteering with WHC I’ve been impressed by the friendliness of the staff and by the passion and professionalism with which they work on behalf of those in need.”

 

“After every volunteering session I have a sense of time well spent”

Erica retired from a busy management role in London and wanted to make a difference in her home town. She was drawn to WHC as she’d helped with Crisis at Christmas several times. She says: “After every volunteering session I have a sense of time well spent. The value of the night shelter is self-evident, but the value of the year-round drop-ins is just as great. As a Christian I want to help those less fortunate than myself in a practical way. Volunteering for WHC is a fulfilling and enjoyable way to do this”.

 

“When you have a bad day...”

Naomi was feeling down following an abusive relationship when she encountered a WHC fundraising stall in the Eden Centre a few years ago. She thought volunteering would be a good way of filling her time and giving something back. So she became a night shelter regular, and enjoyed making a difference for WHC guests and seeing progress in their lives. Says Naomi: “You don’t have to have a fantastic skill – just giving some time means so much more. The shelter guests I meet just value someone who will listen and help them feel at home.” In time, Naomi was trained up to act as a shift leader, and enjoyed helping new volunteers get started themselves.  Professionally, Naomi is a finance whizz for a startup company. She had spare time in her week, so when WHC needed admin volunteers she began to man the WHC office each Monday. With her eye for organisation, she made some changes that save time for volunteers working in WHC’s advice and support centre. Naomi’s employer has now successfully grown, so she will have to miss her Mondays in the WHC office. Says Naomi: “When you have a bad day, volunteering at WHC puts your life into perspective: it’s humbling when you realise there are people around who have less. Next year’s night shelter? I’ll be there – it’s like one big family!”

 

“We’ll get it sorted in a year or two...”

Mike had time on his hands. Newly retired, he heard about the local homelessness situation through his church, and wanted to help tackle it. So he signed up to help at the night shelter – and he’s still doing breakfasts eight years on! As time went on, he also started helping at WHC drop-in sessions, spotting guests who needed to see a staff member. Since then, he has been trained to advise guests himself in WHC’s sup­port centre, and also has taken on a role handling donations of clothes and household items. Mike has been with WHC since the start. He says: “I volunteer because I want to make a difference, and I enjoy helping WHC to be more effective.” He doesn’t do it to be thanked, but it’s great occasionally to get real appreciation from guests that WHC has assisted. Says Mike: “What have I learned? Well, when I first began volunteer­ing, I hoped we’d solve Wycombe’s problem of homelessness in a year or two – but now I can see there is no end in sight…”

 

“I felt shy at first...”

“I was asked to write about what I enjoy most about volunteering and I don’t think enjoyment was quite what I had in mind when I joined WHC, but enjoyment is what I’ve found. I felt pretty shy at first, faced as I was with the reality of people who are in very desperate need; but shyness soon went, as I am completely engaged by what I have to do and constantly amazed by the knowledge, humour, hard-nosed practicality and sheer unsentimental compassion of the staff and other volunteers, not just to our guests but to volunteers like me who get things wrong. So, I would advise anyone who is interested in how the world treats people who have come to the end of their tethers, to join a group of people who just get on with it, and make things happen.” – Evangeline

 

“You’ll get back more than you put in”

“I really enjoy getting to know some of the guests and the breaking down of pre-conceived ideas of homelessness and the reasons behind it. I always said that but for the grace of God anyone could be there. I’ve met well-educated and well-presented folk who have just gone off the rails a bit. If you volunteer with WHC you will get more out of the experience than the hours you put in. An open heart will fill with love of others who are often forgotten in High Wycombe. The stone you throw into the mix will create a ripple that goes far beyond the shores of the lake. I hope I gave the guests and co-workers something to remember through my volunteering.” – Paul

“The love, care, and support shown by my fellow volunteers has staggered me”

"Night shelter volunteers vary so greatly in their skills and backgrounds but we all have one thing in common: a need to try and make things a little better for the individuals we come into contact with. The love, care, and support shown by my fellow volunteers has staggered me and it's made me have hope for the world my little boy is growing up in. Knowing that so many of these kind-hearted people live in our town is humbling. 

The guests themselves vary so much in background, too, and despite struggles they support each other when they are at their most vulnerable. I have had the pleasure of getting to know some of the guests over my shifts and I have enjoyed their company, jokes and film recommendations. 

I have also seen the darker side of some individuals’ issues and seeing the effects of alcohol and drug abuse has been difficult; many will have a lifelong struggle with their demons. But even if I made only one person smile or enjoy a conversation during my shift, I will be pleased because it showed them I cared. When the lives of rough sleepers are so difficult, and I have no doubt that they are, I want them to have hope. Because hope is what keeps us all going. While I worry deeply about what the guests will do once the shelter is at an end, I know the team at Wycombe Homeless Connection will continue to support them and give them that hope." – Rebecca

“It’s the most rewarding and valuable work you can do”

“I really feel part of something – both from being united by a cause that matters and from sharing a feeling of care, respect and empathy for those around us. Obviously due to the nature of the work we do, it can be difficult at times; there are people facing real struggles in their lives and you wish you could personally do more for them – this is just not always possible. But to be part of an organisation that offers some kind of help to those who are homeless, or facing homelessness, who may otherwise have few options, is what makes it all worthwhile. It’s the most rewarding and valuable work you can do. Every day volunteering I learn something new, about myself and other people. It has been eye-opening and, at times, awe-inspiring seeing the strength people find within themselves to overcome adversity. I am always meeting new people from the community, both other volunteers and guests, who I may not otherwise have had the chance to meet; but they are some of the best and most interesting people I have ever met.” – Lisa