With Christmas swiftly approaching, Tempo talks to Dean, a Shaw Trust participant and volunteer, about the value of giving. Dean has been unemployed for three years due to depression. He tells us why giving time to others as well as himself is so important for his mental well-being and how volunteering contributes to his journey to finding work.
“I knew I was always different from the get-go; as a child I could see the way other kids communicated at school. I could concentrate until about midday, but then all hell broke loose. I disrupted the class, I was the joker. I managed until I was about 12 then I played truant. I left home at 15 and went out to work straight away. I’ve done all sorts of things; working my way up the ladder from bus boy to head waiter to silver service banqueting waiter, fashion and dance even.
Three years ago I was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). First thing they did was put me on medication, no counselling, no explanation, no support. For the first couple of years I walked around like a total and utter zombie, I didn’t really feel, I didn’t feel happy, I didn’t feel sad, I just felt numb.
It was a real blow and an all-time low. I signed on [benefits] because of depression. Even now there are weeks when I really struggle. So, when you’re at your worst or most depressed, when you can’t focus on what you’re going to do, let alone looking for a job when you can’t even look for the bar of soap. I decided I was either going to live my life by whatever medication they were going to give me or I could go back and say that this is not working, because there’s alternative medication albeit no therapy or support.
I’ve always done stuff for other people. I think it came from my mum. She always had time for other people. The door was always open, front and back. There was always food in the kitchen and if anyone turned up that needed to be fed whoever they were. There was never any need to ask, she would say, ‘the pot’s there, just help yourself’.
I started volunteering for St James Piccadilly. My brother had given me some money for Christmas, which I thought would be better spent on other people, so I donated it to the church. Unbeknown to me it paid for a lot of people who were experiencing homelessness to have Christmas lunch. I offered to volunteer during the night from 8 in the evening through to 8 in the morning. I helped clear up for dinner, get the beds and sleeping bags out ready for everyone to sleep. I looked out for everyone and rarely slept.
Last year I was doing the night shelter on New Year’s Eve. At midnight the bell started to chime, and it was just amazing to know that I provided the protection for people who don’t have a home and don’t sleep well because they are scared for their safety. That is what volunteering is about. You can always give to other people who have less. That’s something that I hold dear.
I have a couple of ideas of where my volunteering will lead me. I want to set up a CIC business (Community Interest Company). The idea is basically that when someone buys something like a pot of porridge, then a meal is donated to someone who needs it somewhere in the UK. I am researching funding opportunities and doing courses with Shaw Trust to help me on my journey.
“Personally, I walk away from volunteering with so much positivity. It’s really empowering. It also keeps me mentally stimulated and I’m not focusing on my own negative bubble.”
I have earned 32 Time Credits over the last six months. Last week, I was feeling pretty down and I found Porchester Spa in Baywater, using www.timecredits.com. For three Time Credits I spent hours there pampering myself.
I have given Time Credits to my friend for her 50th birthday, she took her sister to Porchester Spa to celebrate. I also gave my other friend Time Credits for her birthday, she took her kids to the Tower of London.
Time Credits make things better because it’s an incentive for people who might be struggling mentally or don’t have the financial support.”