'Volunteering at Shelter helps me to feel useful.'

'Volunteering at Shelter helps me to feel useful.'

This year, we’ve been celebrating Volunteer’s Week throughout June by sharing stories about some of the things our incredible volunteers have been up to in their roles. With over 2,500 volunteers across Shelter and Shelter Scotland, we’re unable to feature everyone (however much we’d like to!) but we hope the snapshot has provided you with a greater insight into volunteering.

With June drawing to a close, we have two final volunteers to introduce you to. Mark and Angelica, our Stories Volunteers, have been responsible for the stories that we’ve been publishing throughout the month. They’ve been interviewing fellow volunteers and writing up their stories. Now it’s their turn to introduce themselves and tell you a bit about their roles.

‘Volunteering at Shelter helps me to feel useful.’

Hello, I am Mark, a Stories Volunteer at Shelter. I recently interviewed fellow Shelter volunteers, Claire and Maryam and you can read their stories here.

I have volunteered throughout my career, firstly in marketing and then in fundraising. I previously volunteered to help children with literacy and numeracy in schools; helped unemployed adults looking for work; and volunteered as a fundraiser, which then led to a career change.

I grew up in social housing in west London, initially in a damp and cold one-bedroom, rented, basement flat which I shared with my brother, sister, mother and father. Looking back, if my mother had lost her job, we could easily have ended up homeless. She was the sole breadwinner.

I have long been interested in the work of Shelter and I felt that volunteering would help me to learn more about the issues faced by millions of people affected by the housing emergency. And what we can all do to help.

‘I am struck by the kindness and willingness of my fellow volunteers to help others in need. I have already met so many wonderful volunteers at Shelter.’

I have discovered recently how much I love to meet new people and hear their personal stories. My volunteering role helps to develop my interviewing and writing skills further and I am now looking to move away from fundraising and into a storytelling role still within the charity sector where I can carry on using those skills.

I would recommend volunteering for Shelter to anyone interested in helping tackle the housing emergency.

I wanted to put my sense of justice into action: why I believe volunteering with Shelter is important for the future of London.

My name is Angelica Gayle and I’m a Stories Volunteer. I believe that I’ve always had a sense of wanting to bring justice to the world. The field I’ve chosen to fulfil this desire is through the arts and I hope to develop a stronger understanding of justice through making films for the cinema in the future.

I’ve spent the last two months engaged with our volunteers, and hearing their stories has been an eye-opening and beneficial experience as I try to learn more about what we do as an organisation. 

I grew up mostly in south-west London but later returned to my original home in Wembley at the start of sixth form. Upon leaving sixth form two years ago, I spent a great deal of time considering what I wanted to do with my life and how I could use the skills obtained at my performing arts college to contribute to our expansive film industry. I was fortunate enough to land a life-changing opportunity with Disney as a trainee in their script department and, despite the workload being intimidating and overwhelming at times, it’s an experience that has whole-heartedly shaped me into the person I am today. 

After my role with Disney ended and after spending some time in New York City, the idea of wanting to bring about a sense of justice started to dawn on me even more. It was unlikely that I would land my next contract so soon and after searching for some volunteer opportunities online, I found this opportunity which has allowed me to give back to an organisation I admire from the comfort of my own home. Writing is one of my many obsessions and being able to transfer my creative skills in writing and ability to communicate well with individuals was something I was looking forward to.

My trip to New York exposed me to many wondrous and spectacular sights. It was everything I’d hoped it’d be. However, New York is one of the richest cities in the world and yet has some of the most shocking scenes of homelessness I’ve ever seen.

London is also one of the richest cities in the world and as we’ve all seen, the cost of living here is gradually increasing to the point where individuals are choosing between paying their bills and putting food on the table. It made me wonder what our city would be like in a few years’ time and whether we could end up being in the same state as New York City if things don’t change.

I also volunteer with the Barking and Brent Food Bank as a social media and distribution volunteer. The Trussell Trust has recently reported that 2.1 million people claimed foodbank parcels over the last year and the charity is seeing that number gradually increase as the government continues to make cuts to benefits and the cost of groceries and toiletries increases. Now that I have this awareness, it’s important to me to contribute my time to organisations that aim to ensure no one faces homelessness or the cost of living crisis alone. I wanted to put my sense of justice into action by becoming a volunteer.

The way Shelter offers help to people in courthouses was particularly interesting to discover as I never knew that an organisation could have so much power in swaying the fate of those who are facing the housing emergency. Not only that, but Shelter is there for those who may have a roof over their head, but are living in unsafe or inappropriate accommodation. It’s one thing supporting people who are experiencing homelessness and another defending the right to a safe, affordable home, and I’ve learnt that Shelter strives relentlessly to do both.