The first time I got involved with Simon on the Streets as a volunteer it transformed my life. Let me try and tell you why.
Nothing can prepare you for your first experience with Simon on the Streets. Mine being the moment when we turned the corner in the Soup Van to see 40-50 people waiting with hunger and anticipation. I was immediately given the job of handing out the blankets and although closely watched by my new colleagues I was left to settle in on my own with my new job.
As I watched around me, I noticed two things; firstly that the practical needs were being delivered to those in need; food, blankets, the finest tea inLeeds. Additionally, I saw emotional support being provided by a formidable group of people. These volunteers and full time workers, from all different backgrounds and experiences were giving up the most precious thing they had. Their time.
As my own experience developed, I realised how special these people are and how good it felt being part of their team. Later, as I met more volunteers who provide different services to the homeless and rootless people ofLeeds, I understood that they knew different people to me and that the network of support extended far beyond the provision of the Soup Van. They offered a listening ear and a helping hand everyday and every night to those people who, for whatever reason were not receiving support from the recognised support agencies.
As well as providing support to the most vulnerable people in Leeds, Huddersfield and Bradford, the friendships and support that exists within Simon on the Streets creates an environment of understanding, commitment, loyalty and trust.
The bond that is created between the volunteers and the fulltime workers is something I have not experienced before. Not only is there an abundance of fun, banter and humor, there is an atmosphere that takes you away from life’s challenges and gives you a sense of purpose and belonging surrounded by thoughtfulness and caring. Everybody is there to listen, not to pry or judge, just to be there when you need to share.
Now in my eight year as a volunteer, I find myself sharing with others the joy of being a volunteer with Simon on the Streets. People can hear how excited and passionate I am about our organisation. However, the way to truly appreciate it is to be part of an amazing team and have their “first moment”. From that point on, they will be part of a unique group of people. It may also transform your life!