This week I sat down with a volunteer for a catch up.
Alice (not her real name) talked to me about how things were going for her, and the changes she felt over the time she had been volunteering with us.
Alice had mostly done office based jobs and had no experience of emotional or mental health support. She came to Chrysalis willing to ‘give it a go’ but mostly did admin for us.
When lockdown came and I was scrambling to get groups up and running online, I was reaching out to everyone to get involved. Alice was one of those who agreed to help.
Initially Alice came to groups to be ‘a bum on a seat’. She described feeling out of her comfort zone and how every time she thought of something to say, the group had moved on. “I felt horrible because I felt I wasn’t helping.”
When I got the facilitation training module online she was happy to sign up – she was invested in the group and wanted to keep helping out, but still felt she wasn’t useful.
She described the training as “quite a revelation.” The scenario work and discussion after each response meant that she could see that her first response was often the best one. “It increased my confidence that I could actually have a go and wasn’t necessarily going to get it wrong.” She has since put into practice much of what she learned.
Alice still felt uncomfortable in groups after training but as she joined in more two things happened. She saw in real time how even her ‘mistakes’ provided an opportunity for people to correct her, meaning that they would talk more and open up, and she gained in confidence.
She also attended one of the monthly skills workshops. She told me that “it was really useful, I got a lot out of it even thought I didn’t realise it at the time. … as a follow on to the facilitation training it was really useful and gave more practice for scenarios we might come up against in group.”
Alice described joining in at the next group as “feeling like a switch had been flicked” – she was fully involved throughout, straight into responding to group members.
Fast forward a few months, and Alice has just taken on a group as facilitator with a newer volunteer as her second.
I like a success story – don’t you?