Kirsty Owen STEP Volunteer
At the end of 2013 I started volunteering with Positive Steps as part of their newly developed Shared Thinking Empowerment Programme. STEP was unlike any programme that I had heard of before, in that it focussed on the empowerment of elderly people in our community. Although I had volunteered with various services before, STEP allowed me to gain experience working with older people.
Volunteering with STEP required me to meet with and assist service users to their weekly ‘pod’ in which they would discuss various topics ranging from financial planning to health and nutrition. I really enjoyed taking part in the discussions which would take place each week and getting to know the different individuals who formed the group. This volunteering opportunity enabled my personal growth in terms of my communication skills and my ability to interact and engage with different people from different walks of life. Having studied psychology at university I was also able to view the group development from a different perspective. It was interesting to see the group form and the different roles which were adopted as the members got to know each other as the weeks went on. The weekly pod became a place where service users could share their experiences and offer peer support to each other on a personal level.
Through my time working with Positive Steps I received ongoing support from the members of staff involved with the STEP programme. I gained a lot from the training offered to volunteers which allowed me to feel confident in my role when attending the weekly pods. All in all I thoroughly enjoyed my experience volunteering with STEP and I feel that it was not only a valuable opportunity for me – but also for the service users involved.
Helen STEP Volunteer
I joined the STEP program in September at first as a volunteer and then used it as my placement for a module in my fourth year at the University of Abertay Dundee. The reason I was interested in the program was because I love interacting with people and I am keen to find a job where I am able to help vulnerable people and make a difference to their lives. Volunteering for the STEP program has taught me many skills which I think will be very beneficial to myself in applying for jobs after university. I have learnt great communication skills through talking to the elderly participants and I have become far more patient and understanding.
I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the participants develop skills through action learning. I have developed close relationships with the participants and still visit some of them in a ‘buddying’ role. However I have learnt that you can never become too attached to people if you want to be professional and this is where the skill of empathy is important. Working for STEP was an incredible opportunity and the report I am helping to construct should hopefully show just how great a program it is. It was obvious how much the participants enjoyed it and the participants I regularly see as a buddy tell me how much they miss it and how much they enjoyed it.