Marilyn's volunteering story

Marilyn with poster
Life is Short: Do Stuff That Matters!

Marilyn has been volunteering with the Carers Support Centre ever since we opened in 2013. Since then, she’s become an invaluable member of the volunteer mailout team, and has recently started supporting our advice workers to manage our resource library. Marilyn is also a carer herself, caring for her adult son with autism. 

As part of our celebrations for Volunteers Week, Communications & Publications Officer Amy Deakin met with Marilyn to find out what volunteering means for her.

Marilyn has always had an interest in volunteering. Before joining the Carers Support Centre volunteer team, Marilyn volunteered with the charity Sue Ryder in a residential home after leaving school. She also helped out with the Brownies where her daughter attended and supported children with reading at a local primary school. But as her mother became increasingly unwell and her son required more support, Marilyn had to drop any volunteering activities to focus on her multiple caring roles.

'Everything changed'

When Marilyn’s mother died at the end of 2012, everything changed. ‘It leaves a big hole in your life,’ she explains. ‘When you’re used to your caring role, there’s a huge gap.’ A few months later, she spotted the advert for a mailout volunteer in the Carers News newsletter, and got in touch to apply. She’s been volunteering with the Carers Support Centre ever since.

‘You’re not just giving support; you’re getting it.’

Volunteering made a big difference to Marilyn at a difficult time. ‘Some of the other volunteers were also carers or had lost someone, so we had common ground.’ It also gave her a support network. ‘You’re not just giving support; you’re also getting it.’

‘Takes you out of your caring situation’

Marilyn continues to care for her adult son with autism whilst volunteering. Though things haven’t always been easy, volunteering has helped. ‘It takes you out of your caring situation for a while. You’re not completely dwelling on your problems; you’re focused on something else.’

Day in the life as a mailout volunteer

trolley
Colin the trusty mailout trolley!

As a mailout volunteer, Marilyn is part of a wider team who support the staff team to get the quarterly newsletter for carers, Carers News, out to over 5000 carers and interested professionals across the borough. Volunteers are tasked with labelling, stuffing envelopes, franking the post and wheeling the newsletters to the post office in ‘Colin’, the trusty mailout trolley.

With such a lot of newsletters to send out, being a mailout volunteer is all about working together to get the job done. ‘We have a few laughs,’ Marilyn says. ‘I enjoy being part of a team.’ 

‘You build your confidence’

As well as helping with the mailout, Marilyn has recently taken on a new role as a library volunteer, supporting staff with organising the Carers’ Information Service resource library. With such a wide range of publications to be sorted through and updated, it’s a big job and requires focus and persistence.

Marilyn confesses that the computer work has sometimes been a challenge, especially as she uses a different operating system at home, but it’s always been a learning experience. ‘You build your confidence as you learn new skills.’ 

‘Always finding something out’

Working in the library with the advice work team has also been a great opportunity to pick up new information. ‘I’m always finding something out and passing it on to others.’ For example, by volunteering at the library, Marilyn learned about the Access to Work scheme and was able to pass the information on to a friend. ‘She’s being supported to stay in work now.’  

Connecting with your community

It’s clear that volunteering really makes a difference to Marilyn’s life, as she makes a difference to others. I ask Marilyn if she would recommend volunteering at the Carers Support Centre. ‘Definitely,’ she says. ‘You’re meeting people from all ages and backgrounds. It connects you with your local community.’ It makes you feel better, too. ‘It’s good for your own mental health and wellbeing. You smile more.’

Would you like to learn more about volunteering at the Carers Support Centre? Contact our Volunteer Coordinator Ruth Laws on 020 8649 6280 or email ruthlaws@carersinfo.org.uk

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