Volunteering pays off

From volunteer to full-time employee: Abu explains how volunteering with Metropolitan Thames Valley set him up for a paid job.

Earlier this year, a leaflet was posted through the letterbox of Abu Sahid’s home at West Hendon in Barnet, north London. Little did he know at the time, it would mark the beginning of his journey back into employment, after his job came to an end and he had spent some time out of work.

The leaflet, from his social landlord Metropolitan Thames Valley, outlined a number of volunteering opportunities available on the estate. “I have a social housing background,” Abu explains. “I worked as a housing officer for many years, so I thought it would be a good opportunity.”

Abu also had a strong track record of volunteering, most recently having given up his time for free at a drug rehabilitation project in east London.

He spoke to his local employment officer, who thought he would be a good fit for a resident survey being carried out on the estate.

Metropolitan Thames Valley is working in partnership with Barratt London and Barnet Council to regenerate West Hendon, in a project which will deliver nearly 2,200 new homes for a mixture of social rent, low cost home ownership and outright sale – as well as facilitating the provision of a range of new community facilities. The survey was designed to gather residents’ thoughts on a number of initiatives that were being planned at the estate’s ‘Community Hub’.

I didn’t know anything about the bricks and mortar, and finance, or about working with architects. These are all new elements that I’m being introduced to. I feel I’m expanding my skillset and knowledge.

Abu enjoyed the work, and was pleased that it offered an opportunity to meet his neighbours – and make new friends. “We went out in pairs with clipboards and surveys,” he recalls. “Actually the person I was in a pair with has become a good friend.

“In that sense, volunteering serves many purposes – people make friends, meet neighbours. It’s nice. That friend also continues to volunteer at West Hendon. There are quite a few of us that volunteer regularly at the Community Hub. There are a range of activities and events that go on there – it’s brilliant.”

Soon after completing the resident survey work, Abu continued volunteering, becoming a trustee of the West Hendon Community Trust Fund – which was set up to support and fund the delivery of community projects at the estate. As a trustee, he helps to assess funding applications from local groups.

With this volunteering under his belt, it wasn’t long before he started looking at Metropolitan Thames Valley’s paid vacancies.

“An opportunity to become a resident liaison officer on my estate came up. I applied for it and, lo and behold, I was successful,” says Abu. “The journey to work takes less than a minute, which is great,” he adds with a smile.

Abu’s job involves providing information and support to residents who are moving from old blocks to new homes on the regenerated estate.

“I’m loving every day,” he says. “The core activities of the job are what I’ve been doing throughout my career. I’m also learning a lot and gaining more experience. I hadn’t worked previously on development projects. I didn’t know anything about the bricks and mortar, and finance, or about working with architects. These are all new elements that I’m being introduced to. I feel I’m expanding my skillset and knowledge.”

Looking forward, Abu is optimistic about the future. “I feel confident that I will not be unemployed for another day.”

Even with a full-time job, Abu continues volunteering in his spare time. As well as his work at the West Hendon Community Trust Fund, he holds a similar position at the Swadhinata Trust – a community group that works to promote Bengali history and heritage among young people

“I really value volunteering,” he says. “I’ve tried to do it as much as possible throughout my life. Even now, I encourage other residents I meet to consider it – especially since I’ve now had such a positive outcome in getting a job.”


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