Darren Bird is our new Volunteer Co-ordinator whilst Miki Pandele is on maternity leave. Here he gives his thoughts on what volunteering means to him.
Carole: Hello Darren. How long have you been volunteering here?
Darren: Since February 2017. I came from the Job Centre. They said that the Jesus Centre was looking for people to volunteer and I remembered coming for Food Bank. I thought it was an opportunity so I came down and hit it off straight away because the people were so easy to get on with. It wasn’t like walking into a strange place and not knowing anyone, everyone is so welcoming.
Carole: What’s been your experience of volunteering here?
Darren: I think being homeless before, I was in a hostel for two years, so the kind of people we get in the Drop-in I instantly thought I can help these people. It was second nature in a sense because I had come from that environment. I knew the kind of characters that were about so it was more a case of I can do well so other people can do well.
Carole: You can help other people in that situation.
Darren: I’ve always tried to help people all my life. That’s my nature but doing it on a bigger scale is kind of nice. 90% of the people who come here get the help that they need. They walk out the door and they’re satisfied, to an extent. And what I get from that is an overwhelming feeling of Wow I’ve done something good.
Carole: Now you are employed as our Volunteer Co-ordinator. What are your feelings about that?
Darren: I want to become a support worker within the homeless sector, that’s my passion. I think until I get to that point I genuinely do know volunteering through lots of different things that I’ve volunteered for.
Carole: You don’t just volunteer here do you?
Carole: You’ve got a lot of experience.
Darren: Yes I have. I think the bit I’m striving to become better at is the computer side. I’m really looking forward to becoming the Volunteer Co-ordinator. Talking to people, enrolling people, making people feel comfortable I can do.
Carole: So you’re going to learn some IT skills?
Darren: Absolutely. And I’ve got a very good team around me that can help me if I get stuck. I’m also going on an Excel course in September. So it’s nervous but excited.
Carole: Everybody has seen you work so hard as a volunteer every day, seeing the need and getting on with it in all different ways, with people, with practical things.
Darren: Some people come in here and say you don’t do much as volunteers, but who cleans toilets for nothing? Who cleans showers out? Who puts up with grumpy people and stands there and has to take however they’re feeling that day and cope with it? For nothing. So what I would say is it becomes a passion, we want to help and it doesn’t really matter what’s thrown at you if you can walk out at the end of the day and say I’ve helped one person.
Carole: In your new role working with volunteers how are you going to help the volunteers to learn and grow?
Darren: I’m want to get as many volunteers as possible together and have a talk with everybody, try to gauge how they’re feeling. If one or two issues are coming up similar across the board then you can deal with it.
I’d just like to say thank you to the Jesus Centre for giving me this opportunity. I really do appreciate the fact that someone’s thought I could do a good job here and have seen me for what I am.
Carole: Thank you Darren. We’re looking forward working with you here Volunteer Co-ordinator.