“You feel most valuable when you’re giving something back.”
Volunteers are at the heart of everything that’s achieved at FareShare Greater Manchester. From driving vans to allocating food, data analysis and relentless fundraising, volunteers give their time and commitment in all weathers, 6 days a week, all year round. In fact, the time given by FareShare GM volunteers is the equivalent of 10 full time staff. The commitment shown by FareShare GM volunteers recently secured them the Best Volunteer Team award at this year’s Spirit of Manchester awards.
Every volunteer has a different reason for getting involved and here’s one story from a recent recruit…
When Tom Shephard (44) attended a community outreach event in Openshaw, Manchester and stopped to chat to EMERGE staff, he was immediately taken with the work we do. As an electronic engineer with a strong sustainability ethos, Tom has a long-standing interest in environmentally-focused initiatives and waste reduction. Prior to moving to Manchester he was the technical lead on cutting edge research project investigating the replacement of fossil fuel for marine vessels.
Once the project came to a close, Tom relocated and began volunteering in his local community. He discovered that he had an interest in food waste. As soon as he heard about FareShare GM’s work, he felt that the charity would be a very good fit and signed up to volunteer at the end of October.
Since that time, Tom has undertaken a variety of tasks in the FareShare GM warehouse; starting with picking and packing orders, and then venturing out and about on the vans, making deliveries to many of the Community Food Members FareShare GM supports.
The accomplishment he is most proud of so far has been passing his recent ‘driving test,’ assessing his ability to take the delivery vans out on the road. He says this is not the sort of role he ever would have envisaged doing due to anxiety which affects his confidence, but he felt comfortable and encouraged within the FareShare team so put himself forward.
Tom has been very impressed by the way FareShare operates, especially with regard to what he calls its “gentle approach to volunteers.” He adds that he has found “a good ethos at the heart of the organisation, where people support one another.” This has been especially beneficial for Tom in meeting challenges presented by his role such as working at speed in the warehouse. His anxiety can sometimes block his ability to perform even simple tasks, so he says that “being relaxed and feeling supported” has definitely helped him.
He’s also delighted to rediscover the positives of working within a team on something worthwhile, which helps build his confidence and, in turn, better enables him to support others. He feels sure that helping those in need in his community has contributed significantly to his own sense of self-worth. “You feel most valuable when you’re giving something back” he says.
His advice to anyone thinking about volunteering with FareShare Greater Manchester is to just come and have a go. “It’s far less scary than you might think it is” he says. “If you’ve been burned by bad experiences and cut off from society, this will help.”
“I can tell that EMERGE and FareShare Greater Manchester have a great ethos that runs through the whole organisation” Tom says. “It’s lovely to know that this is here, and there’s a genuine hope for me that this will remain part of my life. I feel that this is a family, and not one I want to lose.”