Tell us about your role and typical volunteering shift
I come in once a week on Thursdays, one week in the morning to cook, the other week in the evening for Street Alternatives. When I cook I am usually there for 3 hours, most of the time with somebody else; occasionally we are 3 people which gives us time to do extra things like a cake or desert; sometimes I am on my own, which is a bit of a challenge, but it helps when the menu is simple.
For Street Alternatives there are more people; this is nice as it is more social and also gives us time to chat a bit with the service users and we are enough people to tidy the kitchen and wash all the dishes.
How did you find out about volunteering at Aberdeen Cyrenians? What made you want to volunteer?
I saw an article in the P&J on volunteering at Aberdeen Cyrenians and checked it out on the website. I had already done things like making food and clothes collections and financial donations, but always wanted to be more closely involved, because I feel very strongly that people who are homeless need much more understanding and support than they are getting.
It must be one of the worst things to experience not to have a safe place to live, especially when having extra challenges such as addiction or social problems. When I retired I finally got the chance to help out in practical ways.
If a friend wanted to volunteer, what would you say was the best thing about volunteering with us?
The friendly and warm atmosphere, the chance to make a difference and the way our contributions are appreciated by staff and the service users. Also to be able to witness how essential the work of Aberdeen Cyrenians and what they offer to people who need support really is.
Has your understanding and perception of homelessness changed since you have been volunteering here?
It has changed in a number of ways. My idea of people who are homeless was much too simple and by meeting them I became aware of how complex the issue is, that many are more educated and careful of their appearance than commonly thought, that there are many more reasons for being homeless than I knew of, but also how many of the service users are quite vulnerable and not well either physically or mentally.
What’s the one thing in your role that you did not expect?
I did not expect to have so much fun interacting with the service users, how much laughing and joking there is – also amongst them, and how grateful most of them are. I was also surprised to see how much food is donated on a regular basis from local businesses.
Volunteers' Week runs from 1-7 June 2019, providing a chance to recognise and thank the amazing contribution that volunteers make to our charity.