Michelle's Journey

An excellent case study from a member of the BPRCVS team about her journey...

In 2010 I was a newly separated single parent with three children on long-term sick due to ME, fibromyalgia and depression. When I first discovered BPRCVS I was attending counselling where my nurse suggested I attend a ‘help for health’ course. It was run by the NHS using the BPRCVS building on Yorkshire Street. I was very nervous, but found the reception volunteers very friendly and welcoming. I attended once a week for six weeks where we talked about ways to deal with health problems that prevent us from doing things we wanted to do. I enjoyed being in other people’s company (it was just me and my children)... I had become introverted and isolated.

The course finished and I decided to try some volunteering, so I talked to Janette Holden, Volunteer Centre Coordinator, about the opportunities and where to look for ideas on the Do-it website. While searching I saw they wanted someone to volunteer in reception. I decided that was the place for me. I wanted to return the favour by helping BPRCVS as a thank you for making me feel better about myself. I filled in the online form and waited.

Carol Port, Buildings Manager, rang me and asked me if I still wanted to volunteer. I said 'yes,' but didn’t think I could do it as I had not worked for over 10 years, had never done any admin work or even answered the phone and was really nervous and anxious about it. Carol was very encouraging, she assured me I would be supported by her and the team. She said it was a great way to make new friends, increase my confidence and learn some new skills. I came for a chat and a look around the building and was given an introduction to the work of the reception team. I had my ups and downs, but volunteered in reception for over 8 years, I think. I have met many people, helped many people and made lifelong friends.

However I had become to feel trapped in the cycle of claiming benefits and volunteering. Wanting to return to work was a frightening thought. I found I enjoyed the admin side of using MS Office and creating tools to keep a track of budgeting and I also worked on producing a volunteer handbook and office manual to make reception tasks easier to learn. I preferred working with figures and spreadsheets. While taking my daughter to college for an open evening I was at a loose end and saw they offered accountancy training. I explained about my love of figures and how I would love to learn accounting, but was worried about going to college due to the cost and my age. They were impressed with my commitment so much so I was offered a place on the course that very night.

I would like to say it was enjoyable and easy, but it wasn’t always; juggling my volunteering, the kids and college work. However, being busy and preoccupied is the best medicine as I had no time to dwell on my illnesses. My confidence grew. I felt like a productive member of the community. I finished my level 2 and started the level 3, which was a lot harder. I had begun to realise I had grown too much and even though I didn’t want to leave the reception team I needed to make the next big step and look for paid work as it was not challenging me enough.

BPRCVS came through for me again as Wendy Shaw, Finance & HR Manager, needed some help in the finance office. This was under sixteen hours so I could transition from my ESA benefit and do permitted earnings without it affecting my benefits. This would give me the work experience in financial admin to help me get a job in the future. I am so glad that I was given this opportunity as it has shown me that accounting is definitely my career choice. I have been doing permitted earnings since February 2018, but I have finally reached my goal of paid work. This July I have been given a part-time job in finance working with Wendy and Cheryl on a permanent basis. It was a great feeling to ring up DWP and cancel my ESA. I am very proud of myself; it has been a long journey, but I have done it! I would like to thank BPRCVS for all they have done, they have changed my life for the better. I hope that I have returned the favour with my efforts. I came to BPRCVS to do some volunteering and along the way I found a new partner, some great mates, a career and a full and happy social life.