The benefits of volunteering - A true story...


Hi, I’m Rebecca. I used to be a volunteer at the Matthew Project and wanted to tell you about my experience of working for them. I left school early having only sat a handful of GSCE’s and drifted through a series of jobs in my later teenage years, not really feeling very inspired by any of the jobs I held. In my early twenties I set my sights on becoming a Social Worker. I worked hard to pass an access course with the hope of getting onto the Social Work degree. However, my hopes were dashed after the admission team advised; I’d need to evidence some real-life experience of working with either children or adults who accessed support services, before gaining entry to the course.


The Matthew Project was an easy choice for an organisation to volunteer for to gain some relevant experience. I remembered them well from my school days, when the Voicebox Caravan would appear on the playground. The adults inside always felt really easy to talk to, and non judgemental.


Before I began volunteering the Matthew Project took me through a range of structured training. I had myself down as a ‘street wise’ kid, so I was amazed when the training uncovered much of my knowledge about drugs and alcohol was based on urban myth! The Matthew Project armed me with the facts, so I could be part of a team offering young people factual information so that they could make an informed choice, and learn strategies to be safe. I loved that the ethos was based in education rather than a judgemental stance of “Just say no”.


I learnt so much over the 18 months I shared with the Matthew Project including how to engage with young people, boundaries, and speaking in front of a group, whilst supporting the Youth Team with information sessions in schools. My colleagues provided me with mentoring for having sensitive discussions with young people, such as those around sexual health. I also had the opportunity to work on a project as a “Nightclub Worker”, providing vital information to young Clubbers on how to plan to ensure they stayed safe whilst having fun on a night out.


I learnt so much during my time at the Matthew Project, with an organisation that truly values and includes its volunteers. The training was comprehensive and well thought out, and my colleagues were inclusive and keen to teach me the skills to deliver the empowering, person centred approach at the core of the Matthew Project.

The Matthew Project gave me the experience I needed to get onto the Social Work degree course. On graduating I worked for many teams in Adult Social Services, before progressing to become a Social Work manager. In 2020 I went on to open my own Social Work consultancy business. Whether you are looking for an excellent learning opportunity to open new career doors like me, want to give something back to your community, or to simply challenge yourself and learn some new skills, I couldn’t recommend a better volunteer opportunity than the Matthew Project.


Author: Rebecca Thornton of Thornton & Lee Registered Social Workers who care | Thornton & Lee (thorntonlee.co.uk)