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Posted on 1 June 2020

National Volunteers’ Week – Ben’s story

To celebrate National Volunteers’ Week, we asked a number of former Acorn volunteers to share their experiences. First, we have Ben Healey’s story.

Hi, my name is Ben Healey and I started volunteering for acorn around January 2019 after doing the 5-month treatment program ( DEAP & STAR) at Fulstone house.

I had been struggling with addiction for almost 29 years and had no understanding of why I kept using drugs and drinking, Also, I had no understanding of personal boundaries let alone professional boundaries. I had very little self-esteem and pretty much no confidence on the inside although I appeared quite confident on the outside.

Initially, I was working in Fulstone house peer mentoring, taking primary clients to housing, doctors, and dentist appointments or just for a walk and a wee chat. It was nice to give a little back as this had been done for myself while I was in treatment by kind-hearted volunteers.

My confidence slowly started to grow and the anxiety started to lessen. I also had to carry out the drug and alcohol testing for a 5 month period, which was a great way of communicating and getting to know the clients on a one to one level and build positive working relationships. If I wasn’t testing the clients, I would be in the office with the housing team working on the computer helping to set up Universal Credit appointments. Up until then, I had never done tasks like that before so it was a great confidence builder.

Later on in the year, after my DBS had come back, I was allowed to sleep over as a volunteer caretaker working throughout all of acorns houses from tier 4 to tier 3. Throughout this, I gained some fantastic communication skills, listening for once being the main one. During this time I was joining in on the peer mentoring and combination learning courses that the counsellors had kindly suggested I do and found them a fantastic help.

I slowly moved out the office and worked in Acorn’s shared houses as more volunteers’ came into the service, working more in the tier 3 housing with people who had come straight out of jail or straight off the street and were trying to remain abstinent from using chemicals. This was very challenging, to say the least, but also very fulfilling and rewarding on the good days. Even on the bad days, I would get up start again and keep working with the clients which did help my self esteem a lot.

I applied for a job as recovery caretaker at Redwood house which involved working with the criminal justice system (a system I have spent most of my life on the wrong side of) and all of the above skills I had picked up along my way volunteering at Fulstone and their many houses. Luckily I got the job which also involved working with one of the support workers which had a lot of involvement with me in my time in treatment so needless to say it was a little weird.

During previous roles in Acorn and this new job, I was gaining a lot more confidence, self-esteem, personal and professional boundaries. This was a very tough job and I had to learn quite quickly about how people work differently and I wouldn’t have got through it without the help of my co-worker and manager, who were always on call to help out even in their time off.

I spent 6 months in this role before a job came up working for Bury Floating Support in my hometown and was another Calico service I was volunteering for when I wasn’t working or volunteering at Acorn. Now all the skills I learned as a volunteer and newly found confidence I gained helped me give a fantastic interview and I got the job to start on the 1/04/20.

However, due to COVID19 I had to stay put at Redwood…. Until one of the recovery caretaker in Rosemary house (where I lived for 10 weeks during my time in treatment) had to go into shielding to keep himself safe. I was moved up to Stockport to help run the house and sit in the office in which I had shed many a tear not 18 months previous.

As I write this now, I start bury floating support on the 1/07/20 and have 100% more confidence, self-esteem and understanding of where my personal and professional life start and end. I can say with hand on heart, I would never have been able to get to where I am today without the foundation of the volunteering roles within Acorn housing and the people that run it, from the big wigs to the volunteers’ coming in behind me. I’m still learning off them too.

There are not enough words to express my gratitude for my 11-12 months volunteering (sounds cheesy but it’s true) from someone who didn’t really understand himself before he started this journey, THANK YOU

Check back tomorrow for another National Volunteers’ Week story!

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