From Volunteer to Manager
SPAN's Parenting Support Manager tells the story of how she first started as a volunteer and how she has developed the skills and knowledge to become one of the senior managers at SPAN...
SPAN (Single Parent Action Network) started in 1990 when a group of volunteers wanted to set up a network across the UK to give single parents a voice. All of the women involved were giving their time freely to support other single parents. They were annoyed at how single parents were being treated by the Government and the media and decided to do something about it. SPAN employed a Co-ordinator early in 1990 and the work began.
How did you find out about SPAN?
I was 21 and pregnant at the time and went along for support. The SPAN women quickly realised that I could operate a computer and roped me in as a volunteer. This was a life-saver; I was feeling redundant and I was wondering what I would ‘do’ apart from being a mum. Volunteering gave me self-confidence, a purpose, something to talk about, something to exercise my brain and most importantly I could talk to my baby about ‘going to work’.
Tell us a bit about your role?
SPAN was so supportive and I took every opportunity to get training and work experience. A job came up at SPAN that fitted well with my son being in full time education. I applied and got it! One of the things I really wanted to do was support volunteers the way I had been supported. This was part of SPAN’s ethos so wherever we could we included volunteers.
It has been an absolute pleasure to work alongside volunteers and to watch them progress. I have worked with a pair of young mums who came along to SPAN to see how they could help. They took their time, trained, worked, took advice and had realistic goals. Now, one of them is a parenting worker and one is a domestic violence worker. Recently one of them spoke about her career progression and said that it wouldn’t have been possible without SPAN’s support, belief in people and encouragement when she was feeling that being a young single parent meant that she couldn’t have a good future.
What would you say to anyone who is thinking about volunteering?
I would advise any single parent who isn’t sure what they want to do, who needs work experience or a confidence boost to contact organisations that interest you and ask to be involved.
I would also urge organisations to think about how to include volunteers. It is a mutually beneficial process that provides rewards for everyone. Volunteering helped me so much at a time when I wasn’t sure where I was going, I am so grateful to the people that supported me and I am really happy to be able to offer to help others at the beginning of their journey into the world of work.