From New Zealand with love: Rachael thrives as a signing volunteer

Credit: Neil Hanna Photography www.neilhannaphotography.co.uk 07702 246823

It’s been a long journey from her home to Scotland, but the distance travelled is more than in miles for Rachael Donovan, and she’s now a shining example of what volunteering can do for you – and others.

The 24-year-old made the bold move of leaving her homeland in New Zealand for Edinburgh, having fallen in love with the capital on a previous visit here.

She believed that Scotland was a nation that promoted social inclusion, so it would be a positive place to hone her skills.

Arriving in October 2015 with little prospect of finding a job, Rachael made the decision to help out Shaw Trust Scotland by volunteering.

Already qualified in New Zealand Sign Language she was able to develop her skills through British Sign Language, while making new friends and going on to secure permanent work thanks to a reference from the trust.

As part of Volunteers’ Week, which is running from June 1 to 12, the charity is sharing stories of how volunteering opens new opportunities for many and helps to transform lives – and Rachael’s is just one of many.

Shaw Trust Scotland, the national employment, disability, learning and skills charity, with over 30 years of experience, is calling for more volunteers to help extend its charitable mission across the country. It believes volunteering can act as a vital bridge between unemployment and working in a permanent role.

The charity helps a range of individuals including those with a disability or mental health condition, young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs), ex-offenders, people tackling addiction and those recovering from a long-term illness.

They say to would-be volunteers: “You don’t need any particular experience. Commitment, reliability, enthusiasm and a genuine desire to help others are the qualities we are looking for and, of course, to be able to spare a few hours each week.”

For Rachael, the journey began after meeting volunteering development specialist Jason Moyes at a charity conference and she has now found employment as a support worker.

Rachael visits the Edinburgh Centre once a week to support deaf clients and spends most of her time with Kellie McCrossan Aitken, helping with her job search.

Rachael said: “There are lots of benefits from volunteering with Shaw Trust. I have learnt a new skill, British Sign Language, which has helped me to communicate better with deaf clients. Thanks to a strong reference from the charity, I’ve also secured a job as a support worker for people with mental health conditions.

“Volunteering has broadened my social circle – getting to know the clients and staff has been great. My time at Shaw Trust Scotland has definitely boosted my own self-confidence.”

She added: “While volunteering at the Edinburgh office, I have seen first-hand the transformation in clients’ confidence levels.

“I support a client called Kellie. We meet every Thursday to discuss her goals and ambitions. Our meetings are an informal channel to discuss any confidence issues. I have faced unemployment in the past, so I can relate to Kellie and other clients’ frustrations. I’m happy to say, through visiting Shaw Trust, Kellie has achieved a place on a volunteering programme which she is really enjoying.”

Kellie said: “My confidence has improved in the job search process. I feel better about navigating through applications and asking what things mean, with Rachael supporting me each step of the way. She interpreted for me at a jobs fair and a volunteer interview. Shaw Trust Scotland is lucky to have such committed volunteers like Rachael.”

Rachael’s passion for volunteering received a boost when she was studying in Vietnam for her Bachelor’s degree in International Tourism Management. While there, she witnessed huge levels of poverty. She decided business wasn’t the right career path for her and became more involved with volunteering.

Jason Moyes: “We couldn’t be more grateful for Rachael’s contribution at Shaw Trust Scotland. She has become a valued member of our team and has been integral in helping Kellie build her confidence.

“We’re always on the lookout for new volunteers at Shaw Trust Scotland in our various offices throughout the country. Volunteers are key to helping us achieve our goal of supporting more people on their journey towards sustained employment.”

If you would like to share your skills and become a Shaw Trust volunteer, get in touch with volunteers@shaw-trust.org.uk or visit http://www.shaw-trust.org.uk/careers-with-shaw-trust/volunteering-for-shaw-trust/

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