I wanted to write about my recent experience of volunteering. Although it was at Unlock, I think my experience is is equally valuable to anybody who is looking for work and feeling despondent about the future. Volunteering was the start to a new brighter phase of my new life.

Prior to volunteering, I had been applying for jobs, getting to the interview stage and then being knocked back because I had a conviction. It would be fair to say that I felt excluded from society and would describe my life as surviving, rather than living.

Getting through the interview and being offered the volunteering role at Unlock was a big boost to my confidence. I was treated like a normal person throughout the whole process, even when discussing my conviction. I was being judged on my skills and abilities and not just on a piece of paper with my conviction on it. I felt accepted and empowered to prove that I still had the skills and abilities to work and contribute to help Unlock provide a good service to its clients.

I always looked forward to the 2 days I volunteered at Unlock, working with the staff and volunteers where I felt totally accepted. Everyone worked together to provide the best service to the people who would contact us for help and advice.

I felt normal, having a purpose to get up in the morning. Usually my life revolved around trying to get the enthusiasm to get up and apply for jobs that I knew I wouldn’t get because of my conviction. This changed with volunteering. I proved to myself that I was a good worker who had the skills and abilities to get back into the work place and contribute. I started to apply for jobs with a renewed confidence, feeling better able to deal with disclosing my conviction when asked.

Volunteering with Unlock opened my eyes to the multitude of issues that people with convictions have to deal with. It showed me that I was not alone and that there were people who were worse off than me, yet coping with life.

Just being able to give advice, information and support to people to help them move on, gave me a great sense of satisfaction and brought home the important work that Unlock undertakes, as they try to help people with convictions move on with their crime free lives.

I have now started a new job and whilst there are still challenges ahead, volunteering with Unlock has given me the confidence to deal with these in a more positive fashion, not to become depressed and move forward knowing that I am a good person who can provide an employer with a good employee.

I am now starting to live my life and not survive it.

By Robert (name changed to protect identity)

 

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