Farhiya – my volunteer journey

Stepping into the realm of volunteering was like entering a whole new world. The experience of volunteering helped me become more open and adaptable.

Black woman in a headscarf smiles at the camera

Before I started volunteering, I found myself isolated and lacking confidence. I wasn’t working for 10 years. I was a bit down and depressed. I had withdrawn into a shell, feeling disconnected from the world around me. I’m Muslim, from Somali culture, mental health is a taboo.

Being a young mother of three, one of them is severely autistic, my entire existence revolved around caring for my children. However, as they grew older, there was a little breather. It was during this period that I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realised I had lost touch with myself. I had become a people-pleaser, concealing my true self behind closed doors. The pressures faced by mothers are immense, and I reached a point where I had had enough. I questioned myself, asking what I was doing with my time when my children were at school. I yearned to do something for my personal growth and wellbeing.

I longed for an opportunity to engage in activities that would benefit me. Although uncertain about which path to pursue, I simply desired to give volunteering a go. My aim was to meet new people and establish connections, with the hope that it would enhance my daily life.

Stepping into the realm of volunteering was like entering a whole new world. I encountered individuals from diverse backgrounds, each with their own unique needs. Richard from Volunteer Centre Hackney’s Step Up team was lovely, and the other volunteers were equally pleasant. Connecting with the local community through this experience has been truly enriching.

Volunteering can open doors to various opportunities. If one is seeking employment, it serves as an excellent platform to gain experience and discover. I wanted to work for the NHS and make a difference. Volunteering provided me with a favourable pathway to pursue this goal. Initially, I began volunteering at a community centre, assisting with gardening tasks, and joining exercise activities.

Driven by a desire to contribute even more, Volunteer Centre Hackney’s Step Up team introduced me to several volunteer roles. One caught my interest – volunteering at a GP practice with another of VCH’s services, Together Better. I was doing administrative duties such as managing calls and recalls. I dedicated a few hours each week, allowing me to work at my own pace. These volunteer hours coincided with the time when my children were at school, making it the perfect arrangement for me.

The experience of volunteering helped me become more open and adaptable. It taught me to embrace whatever came my way and handle diverse situations with ease. I am a nurturer – I like to help definitely.

Through my commitment to volunteering, I eventually secured a paid position as a Call/Recall Coordinator at Spring Hill Practice. In this role, I focus on childhood immunisation. Contacting parents and understanding their wants needs is amazing. I am the one who’s on the ground.

I now have my identity. I’m proud to be Muslim, Somali, and British.

Join Farhiya, and volunteer in Hackney. To find out about Step Up, click here.

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