One of the organisations in the InVOLve House was Advice NI, we talked to Michael Murphy who makes sure that people can get the benefits they deserve as some people might have a language barrier and are not able to ensure them themselves. He helps people fill in important forms which range from business debt to tax and benefits and even welfare changes. After we had our informative conversation, we went a little bit off track and started to talk about cats, which was probably the best experience of my life (in Alise’s words).
After that, we went to talk to Simon Holmes, who works in the Base in Magherafelt. The Base is a safe space for adults, giving them a place to communicate, develop friendships and become more independent. I (Alise) developed many friendships with the different personalities that come into The Base daily, as everyone had their quirks and interests. Simon helped me feel comfortable around the crowd of people, as I am usually shy and I ended up making friendships that could potentially last longer than just these short four days.
In my work experience, I decided to solely focus on The Base, as in the future I want to do criminology or law, and these focus a lot on communication. During my first day I took my time getting to know everyone and even attempting to teach them new things, like numbers in a different language, (Latvian!). After getting introduced to everyone we made cupcakes the next day, (forgot to give one to Michael, sorry!) We also had a little Christmas party where everyone sang along to Christmas songs and had a fun, enjoyable time together. It was sad on the last day where I had to tell everyone goodbye, as I had grown quite attached to them. I hope to come back someday to talk to them again.
During my experience (Paulina), I made a Christmas edition of the volunteers’ centre newsletter. It taught me so much about what the centre did throughout the year and how with the help of volunteers, nearly everything is possible. After that, I helped with ’12 Days of Giving’, this involved making social media posts about different groups or organisations needing volunteers. All of this really showed me the amount of places to turn to for every type of person in Mid Ulster and how everyone could do something they enjoyed while giving a little time to volunteer. As I would like to become a journalist, I learnt new skills and improved upon the ones I already had. Also, because I was talking to so many new people and learning what they do, it helped me develop my communication skills which are essential. It is safe to say that my work experience was extremely pleasant and helped me in seeing if journalism was really the career I would like to go into in the near future (spoiler, it is!)
On our last day, we got a chance to talk to Mairead Devin, who is the ‘Carefully Yours’ Project leader. This is a project for anyone over the age of 55. It helps include older people into the community and arranges clubs for them to socialise and benefit from. The project aims at helping these people with independence and brings them out of isolation thus making them a part of the local society.
Overall, this experience has been very pleasant and enjoyable for the both of us. The days never seemed boring and time passed by quickly. There was always something to do and it didn’t feel like a chore to have to go on work experience. This place made us feel like we were a part of doing something important and helping people who just want to be like everyone else. This experience also helped us develop communication and writing skills that we haven’t got much of a chance to use in an actual workplace. The work that this seemly small place does is very inspirational and shows the good in people and how much they are willing to set up different projects and workplaces just in order to help others. We would be happy to come back and help again in the future!
Thank you InVOLve House and Mid Ulster Volunteer Centre for giving us this opportunity.
Paulina and Alise