Volunteer – ‘van driver’s mate’ 

“I’ve volunteered with Martlets for the past two years and I’m loving it. I go out in the van to pick up furniture and all sorts of stuff that’s being donated. I’m taking medication which means I can’t drive, so I’m the ‘wing man’, giving the driver directions and telling him it’s all clear left and so on. The traffic can be awful at times so I’m glad I’m in the passenger seat, but we have so much fun, even when we’re stuck in a jam. 

I joined the volunteer team at Martlets after I’d had a breakdown. When I left hospital I asked my care coordinator about volunteering; she arranged for me to have an interview here at the Martlets’ warehouse and I started the following week. 

Why I chose Martlets  

Before I went into hospital my mother passed away. She had cancer and was cared for at Martlets – the nurses put extra beds in her room and we stayed there towards the end. The nurses were like angels. I also liked the feel of the Martlets’ shops when I’d been in and I’d seen a friend’s mate driving vans for them. All of that connected me with Martlets so when I decided to try volunteering they were my choice. Prior to my breakdown I had a campervan which I loved and I going out on the vans here is what I call, in jest, my ‘van therapy’. 

A confidence boost 

I’ve worked all my life – I was a lift engineer for 20 years and a landlord. I had a good income, but I lost it all when I was diagnosed with bipolar and had the breakdown. Volunteering at Martlets has helped me ease back into interacting with other people and is helping me cope with different types of people. It’s a way back to normality for sure. 

We meet so many people and pick up such a variety of stuff. The other day we were literally ‘in the doghouse’ when we picked up a dog kennel from a back garden, and last week someone donated a rather unusual piece of alternative ‘fancy dress’ to one of our charity shops. Only in Brighton. I don’t think it made it to the shop floor. 

I’d encourage other people to give volunteering a go. It’s a great way to earn yourself a reference if you haven’t been working for a while and to build your confidence, because that’s the bit that gets shattered when you’re ill or out of work. If you’re down, volunteering just lifts you up. That’s what Martlets has done for me.”