Building skills to gain employment: Volunteers Week 2024

Do you want to develop your skills through volunteering to build your CV? As part of Volunteers’ Week 2024 (3 to 9 June), we are sharing stories from volunteers who have used the skills they’ve developed in their role to gain new employment.  

When you volunteer with Sight Loss Councils (SLCs), we will provide you with core training and ongoing opportunities to learn and develop in your role. Whether you’re interested in public speaking or honing your social media skills, there’s something for everyone to get involved in.  

Other skills you may learn include campaigning, improving your confidence in public speaking, organising events and much more. We’ll focus on your strengths and interests and help you build upon them. These are all skills that will also really help boost your CV if or when applying for jobs. 

Lauren’s story 

Lauren Eade is SLC Coordinator for Southeast England. She shares how she went from dependence to fully independent through her volunteering journey.  

Image of Lauren Eade, East Sussex SLC member. Lauren is sitting in a garden in the sun. She has long, brown, hair and is wearing sunglasses.“After experiencing sight problems for many years, I was eventually diagnosed with Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI) in 2020 and registered as partially sighted. 

“Volunteering with the SLC has been life-changing for me. Finding a supportive environment, where I was understood and accepted made a huge difference to my confidence. They saw me as a whole person, as opposed to a condition.  

“I learnt so much from other volunteers and staff, which helped me in everyday life. They encouraged me to get more white cane training to increase my independence. With support from Guide Dogs, I went from never leaving the house alone to travelling into London independently using Passenger Assistance.  

“Volunteering reignited my passion and gave me something productive I could succeed at. Having goals to work towards helped maintain my motivation. I developed many new skills, like communication, writing, and research, and I started using new computer programs. SLC projects gave me practical examples and real-world experience I could apply in the workplace.  

“Volunteering not only gave me my life back, but it’s also given me the future I’d always dreamed of. Volunteering ultimately led me to apply when my role was advertised. I became the coordinator for Southeast Sight Loss Councils in January 2024.” 

David’s story 

David Parfett, SLC coordinator for Northwest England, describes new skills he learnt as a volunteer. He now uses these skills in employment as a direct result of his volunteering role. 

David Parfett, SLC coordinator for the North West. He is standing against a wall, smiling at the camera.“I was born with Congenital Nystagmus. I grew up in the Derbyshire countryside before transitioning to The Royal College for the Blind in Hereford.  

“Before joining Merseyside Sight Loss Council (SLC) as a volunteer, I lacked confidence and struggled to speak to large groups. However, shortly after joining the SLC, I was given numerous opportunities to learn and further develop skills.  

“I got to work on my public speaking skills during a visual awareness session for students at a local university. Before this session, my engagement manager (EM) met with me to discuss how the session would work and what topics I might talk about. This experience has supported me in my current job role as Northwest SLC Coordinator, as I often talk to large groups on issues blind and partially sighted people face.  

“During a conversation with my EM, I highlighted that I would like to learn how to minute meetings. I was allowed to learn this skill at the next monthly SLC meeting. She prepped me beforehand and supported me throughout the meeting. She even asked members to slow down when I had larger bits of information to minute. As a coordinator, I often minute and chair meetings. I would not have had this ability if it wasn’t for learning this skill as a volunteer.”  

Jack’s story 

Jack Moffat, Engagement Manager for Northeast of England, describes how his volunteering role built his confidence and ‘lit a fire in me.’ 

A headshot of Jack Moffat, Engagement Manager for the North East. Jack has dark hair and a beard. He is looking at the camera, smiling.“I have Retinitis Pigmentosa and am registered Severely Sight Impaired (SSI). Before volunteering with Northumberland SLC, I had no confidence or self-belief. I thought my sight loss would always prevent me from achieving my career goals.  

“When I became a volunteer, I met other enthusiastic and successful visually impaired people. Seeing what they had managed to achieve lit a fire in me. I started gaining confidence and believing that my lived experience had value. I went to meetings with my engagement manager who encouraged me at every opportunity to speak up.  

“I learnt how to conduct myself to create maximum impact and genuine change. Different meetings require a different approach, and I am now able to mix my enthusiasm with realism and rationality. My enthusiasm and self-belief started to grow.  

“Volunteering finally offered me the chance to turn my experience of sight loss into something positive. This is something I never thought possible. Volunteering ultimately empowered me to apply for and get the job of my dreams. Without the inspiration and support I received through volunteering, I would never have developed the skills required to flourish in my role. I am so very proud to do the job I do. I won’t ever take it for granted. 

Belle’s story 

Belle Whiteley is the SLC Co-ordinator for Yorkshire and Humberside. She shares how her volunteering role taught her how an SLC operates and increased her understanding of the sight loss sector. 

Headshot of Belle Whitely, West Yorkshire SLC member. Belle has long, brown, hair. She is looking at the camera, smiling.“I have been registered sight impaired since age eight but was always aware that at some point I would start to lose my sight. I have Stargardt disease which is a genetic degenerative eye condition. Both my parents have the condition so I knew from as soon I could understand what sight was that I would begin to lose my central vision.  

“The example my parents set for me as independent people who lived full lives showed me that losing sight didn’t mean losing myself or my independence.  

“I started volunteering for West Yorkshire Sight Loss Council in 2021. This was shortly after graduating from university. I also had a full-time role in the development team at Opera North, alongside my volunteering role.  

“Being a member of West Yorkshire SLC gave me valuable insight and experience into how an SLC is run, developed my skills, and increased my understanding of the sight loss sector.  

“This gave me the confidence to become a full-fledged staff member in March 2023, when I became a coordinator for West Yorkshire SLCs. I now look after our SLCs in Yorkshire and Humberside.”  

Join us 

Passionate about making a difference? Want to influence positive change? Our Sight Loss Councils, led by blind and partially sighted volunteers, are recruiting new members. Join us today. 

We use our lived experiences to create positive change for others. Together, we tackle local issues and work with businesses and service providers to improve the accessibility of their services. 

Join us to help ensure visually impaired people in your area can live the lives they want to lead. You can find out which Sight Loss Councils are recruiting near you on our join us web page. 

Join us

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Publication date: 05 June 2024

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