June starts with Volunteer Week so this week’s blog is a retrospective of volunteering at Chrysalis: what people have given to the charity; what people gain from volunteering; and how we would not be here without some staggering contributions from passionate individuals.
The journey that changed my life
Back in 2006 I embarked on a journey that was going to change my life. I signed up for a ten week Introduction to Counselling Concepts course. A piece of professional development to better support the students living in halls of residence. There I met the incredible Annie Thompson, heard about Carl Rogers for the first time, and saw the path opening up in front of me: I was going to study to become a counsellor. I loved how empathic listening opened up doors into the soul enabling healing of wounds caused by abuse, trauma, denial and discrimination.
My interview was in a small office at Southampton Voluntary Services, provided to Chrysalis to help the charity develop from an enterprise run from the founder’s back bedroom into the organisation you know today. It was here I first met Dianne and experienced first hand the passion which empowered her to devote 12 years of her life to Chrysalis. Later on I was to meet Laura and this blog is dedicated to our two founders. Without their vision of a world where every gender diverse person would be free to be their authentic self Chrysalis would not be here today.
Who I met along the way
Our real records start in 2010, with the opening of the seed office in St Mary’s. Our volunteers donating 329 hours to providing safe, confidential support groups, counselling and workshops to trans people in Southampton and Portsmouth. I remember three key names from that time: Gillian, our Southampton facilitator, Lesley her support volunteer and Louise who was the first person most of our new members met. These three worked tirelessly to create a safe space where our members could meet with others of similar experience and begin to explore their own transition. I cannot thank these three enough for their support as I juggled a full time job, a new baby and three placements. Becoming a counsellor is rewarding but no one makes that journey alone.
Those early pioneers
In 2011 Dianne was giving nearly 700 hours a year to Chrysalis. Building up the charity and exploring developments in Bournemouth, Basingstoke, Ringwood, and Winchester. Her devotion to her charity was clear for us all to see, and everyone responded by giving back. To spend time with Dianne was to be swept up in her vision, to know that the world could be a better place. Those who worked with Dianne will remember her catchphrase “Well you didn’t say “no”!” after one had been inveigled into giving more to her beloved charity. Her dedication further empowered us to give selflessly.
In 2013 Gillian, Joanne, Lesley, Louise and Ted led the way. They delivered support groups, met with new members, talked on behalf of the charity across the county and secured funding.
Louise’s grit and determination, her passion for the work of Chrysalis led her to a seat on the board. It was during this time she and I worked most closely together to develop the charity. Louise always put the members first, often providing one-to-one support in times of crisis. She was the person you knew you could call whatever time of day or night.
The volunteers who made change possible
The years passed and Dianne approached retirement. Nourished by all the hard work of the volunteers and the passionate support of the members Chrysalis was growing up. I too was grown up. Now a counsellor, psychotherapist and supervisor, with my practice enhanced through everyone I connected with in Chrysalis. In October 2017 Dianne passed the baton to me and in April 2018 the volunteers affirmed her choice. At an annual general meeting like no other the voice of the volunteers was thunderous. A roof raising shout proclaiming our belief in the charity’s vision and our dedication to delivering it.
The whole team
In preparing for this blog I asked Kevan, former Southampton facilitator, what information we had about our volunteers. Between 2007 and 2020 an amazing 117 people donated 30853 hours to Chrysalis, adding £467,114.42 of value to the charity.
Adele, Alan, Alex, Amanda, Andrew, Anne, Barny, Bartosz, Cara, Carole, Cassie, Catherine, Charmain, Claire, Clare, Dawn, Deanna, Diane, Dianne, Donna, Emily, Emma, Faith, Fiona, Foteini, Gaynor, Gemma, Georgie, Gillian, Grecia, Hannah, Helen, Ian, Imale, Jamie, Jasmine, Jill, Jo, Joanna, Joanne, Jodie, Joel, Jon, Josh, Josie, Joy, Joyce, Julie, Julie, Kathy, Katie, Kevan, Kevin, Kieran, Laura, Laura, Lesley, Lionel, Lisa, Louise, Luke, Lyn, Marie, Mark, Marvis, Mary, Matthew, Max, Megan, Melissa, Misha, Natalie, Natalie, Nathan, Neela, Neil, Nina, Ollie, Olly, Orlagh, Pat, Paul, Paul, Peter, Peter, Phylis, Rob, Robyn, Roger, Rosa, Ruby, Ruth, Sally, Sam, Sam, Samantha, Sammy, Sandra, Sarah, Sarah, Saskia, Sharon, Sheila, Steffi, Stephanie, Steven, Suzette, Tamara, Ted, Tom, Tracey, Wendy, Yvonne
This blog is for you. Know that you all have a place in my heart and my memories.
How volunteering changes you
Each one of those volunteers touched my life, sharing my journey and in the journey of Chrysalis. Our connection with Chrysalis changes all of us. I have met so many wonderful people at Chrysalis and shared many moments of euphoria and authenticity. At the start I said counselling training changes the trainee, the same can be said for volunteering for Chrysalis.
Volunteering at Chrysalis means being part of a service that delivers positive change. We empower our members to understand themselves and in turn they share with us the beauty of authenticity.