Why did you decide to volunteer for Launchpad?
Around two years ago I did the Big Sleep Out with my local gym and it was a month after I bought my own house in Reading. The event really got me thinking – I felt really privileged because I was buying my own home but there’s a whole bunch of people in Reading who don’t have a home.
I’ve always done volunteering and love it – I was involved in Girl Guiding and Rainbows when I was growing up and went on to volunteer for the Scouts as a National Media Volunteer, and have been doing that for 15 years. At the time of the Big Sleep Out I’d stopped doing a lengthy commute to London so had some spare time and I really liked what Launchpad did. So I decided to look into volunteering with them and emailed the team.
How did you find sleeping out at Launchpad’s Big Sleep Out?
I’m an outdoorsy person anyway so it wasn’t really daunting for one night but what was quite tough was the poor quality of sleep you get. You wake up every hour because there’s a leaf on your face of a bug crawling on you. But we got to go home to a nice home and a comfy bed the following day, and there are a lot of people who can’t do that. Then you start to think how hard it would be if you had to sleep on the streets and then get up and walk around for 12 hours – day in, day out.
What type of volunteering do you do for Launchpad?
Lots of other charities ask you to commit to an afternoon every week or something similar but that’s impossible if you work full time – which is why Launchpad’s more flexible volunteering really appealed to me and I began doing that. It’s ad-hoc so the fundraising team get in touch when they need people. It’s mainly for events like Spencers Wood Carnival, Christmas carols at the train station or the Pancake Race. At the Christmas carols I take collections and speak to people about the charity and for the Pancake Race I volunteer in the pen and look after people doing the race, and explain the rules. The Pancake Race is my favourite event – the atmosphere is amazing, everyone is dressed up and it seems like the whole of Reading comes out to support it.
I also volunteered at the Severe Weather Emergency Provision (SWEP) in March last year when we had lots of snow in Reading . If the weather is really cold, rough sleepers can get an emergency bed at The Salvation Army hostel and Launchpad provide volunteers to help out there. It was a real eye-opener and such a good insight into what rough sleepers have to cope with, and how Launchpad works with other services across Reading.
I’ve recently taken on the role of an ambassador at Launchpad which means I support the fundraising team by representing the charity out in the community. I give talks to schools, churches and community groups, and go to cheque presentations. It’s a great opportunity to educate people about what Launchpad does to prevent homelessness and how homelessness is much more than just rough sleeping.
How often do you volunteer?
In a year I probably volunteer about six to ten times and the most hours I’ve done in one month is about ten, but it varies. I think a lot of people don’t think they have time to volunteer and say they’re too busy. But I don’t give a huge amount of time and I can choose what opportunities I take up. It’s always a really nice day out too – it doesn’t feel like work, it’s fun and you get to chat to some really interesting people. Members of the public are always really interested in the charity too, which makes it easy to start conversations. On World Homeless Day last year we handed out leaflets at the station and so many people wanted to hear about Launchpad.
What is your favourite thing about volunteering for Launchpad?
My favourite thing about volunteering is the satisfaction you get from it and knowing you are doing something to help others. Homelessness is something that could so easily happen to anyone – anyone could get made redundant tomorrow and be only one pay cheque away from losing their house. I can’t imagine how hard that would be. I’ve been fortunate and want to help where I can. I don’t work in a career where I get that, so for me to get that in my spare time, for my own sense of self, is really important.
If someone was considering volunteering for Launchpad, what would you tell them?
I’d say don’t worry about not having the right skills or experience, and don’t worry about having to commit lots of time. Launchpad volunteers have a whole range of backgrounds and experiences which suits the different volunteer roles the charity offer – and even giving one hour a month is so valuable.