Volunteering through adversity: Ruth’s story

Ruth has dipped in and out of volunteering since her late teens, but it wasn’t until 2021 that it started featuring so prominently in her life. Suffering from mental health issues, Ruth had to resign from her full-time job as a hospital administrator back in 2016. The following years were marked by a series of difficulties, including temporary accommodation away from her community and intensive therapy. Ruth managed to continue therapy throughout the pandemic, which she says she’s incredibly grateful for. Ultimately, she would get referred to Volunteering Kingston and start her latest volunteering journey.

Ruth started volunteering with Kingston Snowflakes in February 2021 and has received a different task to execute every week. The group’s ultimate goal is to “make the world a better place” with every small action, and for Ruth it was an opportunity to once again start contributing towards society in a small but accessible way. “I was really, really overjoyed I was able to do something,” she explains. “Especially when things were at their worst this January with lockdown and the new (coronavirus) variants. Being able to make the tiniest bit of a difference and reach out to someone gave me enrichment. Like you’ve got meaning and purpose to actually make a difference.”

Her goal had been to start volunteering with a regular role when her therapy ended back in April, but the experience with Kingston Snowflakes was so rewarding that Ruth soon took up a second volunteer role at the Chatty Café Scheme, where, once a week, she speaks to a vulnerable adult who is experiencing loneliness and self-isolation. She didn’t stop there though. She also started volunteering at the Hogsmill Community Garden and at the Scope charity shop in Tolworth. Very quickly, Ruth was engaging with four different volunteering roles.

“My priorities in life have become a lot more black and white,” she says. “I’m very clear on what’s important to me. I’m not going to leave it behind this time. My time is being filled with meaningful things. I’m still unwell, but I’m starting to stretch my muscles again, getting myself back into a routine – a meaningful routine.”

Overall, she struggles to characterise the experience of volunteering, saying “a positive impact” is possibly not sufficiently emphatic to convey just how much it has transformed her life. “That’s possibly the understatement of the century!” she says with a laugh.

But when it comes to volunteering as a general concept, she’s resolute: “People don’t understand that a lot of jobs are completely voluntary. If people didn’t do them, they just wouldn’t get done. And when you find yourself touched by adversity, you start to see that most of the help you get is from charities and nowhere else. Basically, a lot of the good stuff that happens in this world happens because of volunteers.”

Do you feel inspired by this story? Would you like to volunteer and help make a difference in your community? Check out the current openings here.


This article was written by Dany Rubbo, Comms Volunteer at Volunteering Kingston.

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