As a Volunteering and Community Officer, my days are varied and full. I am the VCO for Essex, North and West Kent, an area filled with groups of different sizes and level of experience. 

Since I started the role in January 2018, I’ve presented certificates to recognise 40 years of stroke support, and I’ve eaten birthday cake at a group’s first birthday celebration. The variety of clubs and groups means that there are so many activities on offer, such as art, exercise, gardening and singing. There are also social activities to choose from, like trips to the theatre, meals out, and even the odd boat trip with afternoon tea - we even had a kazoo orchestra perform last year!

Today, my working day begins after I drop my son off at school, and I set off to my first meeting. It’s a visit to a local Speakability group who’ve asked me to run a Communication session themed around the 100th anniversary of the signing of Armistice. 

I’m a little apprehensive as the group is well established and led by wonderful and dedicated volunteers, with a wealth of experience between them. But any nerves I have are quickly forgotten as I’m warmly welcomed by the members, and they begin to fully engage in the session I’ve prepared.

As the group share stories, we’re treated to the wonderfully stirring and emotional memories of an evacuee, who was evacuated with her sister from London to the Mid Essex area. It was there that she met the love of her life, the man who went on to become her husband. It turns out that the couple were married in the very church that the group are now sat in! It’s a truly inspiring story and a real privilege to hear it shared through supported conversation and peer support.

Following the morning session, I’m off to deliver a Volunteer Induction to a small group of newly recruited volunteers. I love delivering the induction as it gives me the opportunity to get to know people, welcome them to our charity and thank them for choosing to volunteer with us. It’s a really interactive, lively session today with lots of questions and discussion, and it’s not just the volunteers learning today. I can pretty much guarantee that every induction I deliver will teach me something new as well.

As the day draws to a close, my mind wanders to what’s planned for tomorrow; presenting an awareness session to a community group, followed by an annual review meeting at an affiliated group, and finally a check in with my newest Stroke Ambassador, who’s preparing for her first presentation.

It’s a truly wonderful role that allows me to support and work with some of the most inspiring, courageous and determined people I have ever met. People who selflessly give their time to support others and the work our charity does. Running groups, raising awareness, carrying out prevention activities, campaigning for change and, perhaps most importantly of all, proving that there is life after stroke.

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