Members of the Body & Soul community: volunteers

Posted on: 24th January 2017

One of the things that sets Body & Soul apart from other health and wellbeing organisations is our membership model. Many such organisations observe a hierarchical distinction between those in the ‘helping’ roles (staff, professionals and volunteers) and those in the ‘helped’ role (often referred to as ‘service users’). Body & Soul has a flat structure whereby people who need support are welcomed into a community of members that includes peer mentors and peer facilitators as well as staff, therapists and volunteers.

 

The mix of skills, qualifications and shared experience that emerges from this inclusive structure is proof that everyone has something to offer. It is part of what makes Body & Soul’s programmes so effective. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be hearing from some of the members who make Body & Soul what it is, beginning with two of our volunteer members.

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We welcomed Connor to the Teen Spirit volunteer team seven months ago and he has become an integral part of the team, acting as a mentor and workshop facilitation assistant on monthly Saturdays. As a UCL medical student he even joined the Body & Soul stand at the recent UCL volunteering fair to get more students signed up. Here Connor shares some thoughts on what being a volunteer member of the community means to him:

HIV strikes a particular chord with me both personally and professionally so as soon as I found out about Body & Soul I knew I wanted to get involved. It’s a real privilege to be able to support teens in dealing with whatever may be going on in their lives – including difficulties related to HIV but also those associated with simply growing up in the 21st century! The relationships I have already built with the teens over the last few months has been really heart-warming. The energy of the members, the family of staff and volunteers, and the undeniable sense of togetherness definitely make Teen Spirit a very special place. Bring on the next one!

Body & Soul volunteers Connor and Vincent

Connor (left) and Vincent (right), two volunteers in the Body & Soul community.

Vincent has volunteered in our Adult Service on a weekly basis for over two years now, taking on many roles from facilitating dating workshops to co-ordinating taxis. This Christmas we were sad to say goodbye as he moves on to new and exciting adventures in his journey: from his experience at Body & Soul he has decided to embark on a counselling course, train to be a mentor at Positive East and start his own dating community for HIV positive men called Positive Dating. Here Vincent reflects on his time at Body & Soul:

Through volunteering at Body & Soul I have come to learn that I am more than I ever thought I was. Being a gay man, the first time I was in men’s group was challenging but I realised that members accepted me as a person and didn’t see me just under the label I identified with. Running workshops at Body & Soul helps me to let go of control and be less of a perfectionist. Members are happy to be guided but most importantly they want to be heard and hear other members’ experiences. I am forever grateful for the opportunities I have been given here and the people I have been lucky enough to meet. My experience here has made me look at a change in career and have the confidence to move forward with it, so thank you.

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If you are interested in joining the Body & Soul community in a volunteering role, please e-mail hollie@bodyandsoulcharity.org.



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