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My First Year As An Independent Advocate Volunteer

At Dumfries and Galloway Advocacy Service, we would not be able to carry out the work we do without the help of our wonderful volunteers. The role of a volunteer is not only crucial to our charity work but it is also an incredibly fulfilling and interesting role that allows you the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and make a difference to their current situation.

We are always on the look out to add to our friendly team and we get asked many questions about what is expected if you sign up so we asked one of current volunteers, Margot to tell us all about her first year as a Volunteer Independent Advocate.

Margot admits that she had never heard of Dumfries & Galloway Advocacy Service when a neighbour first told her about us, but after googling us, she decided she wanted to become involved.

You can apply to become a volunteer via email and Margot did exactly that – she was met with a quick response from our Chief Executive, Pamela Deans, and invited in for an informal chat before completing an application form and then being invited for interview to see if she was a suitable candidate.  She was told on the same day that D&G Advocacy Service would like her to come in for training to become a volunteer Independent Advocate.

Training takes place over a few months and volunteers learn all about what Advocacy is, mental health, human rights, supporting vulnerable people, guardianship etc.  Margot says of the training, “although in a classroom environment, it was also very relaxed and enjoyable”.

One of the most important parts of Advocacy is having the skill to listen to people, and their story.  As an Advocate, we are not there to judge, instead we are there to empower individuals and help them feel comfortable expressing themselves, something they couldn’t do before.

Margot says the training programme was invaluable on her journey to becoming a volunteer, in particular the step when you shadow an experienced volunteer and get to go out and sit with a client.  This part of our training programme is crucial as you gain real life experience and get to learn ‘on the job’.  The classroom aspect equips you with human rights law and an understanding of what to expect in the role but it is not until you are actually sitting with a client that everything falls into place.  Margot says this is where you truly learn to be non-judgemental; treat people with kindness and empathy and hopefully support them through their journey to get the respect they deserve as human beings, and for their voice to be heard no matter how hard that can be for them at times.

So what is it about the role that Margot loves the most?  It’s the satisfaction you get when you see that person laughing instead of crying, relaxing when at first nervous and understanding you’re an independent organisation there to help, not interfere.  You see, many of our clients initially think of our advocates as another person interfering in their life, especially when they have already had social workers and adult support involved.  But an advocate’s role is to support the client and give them a voice.  It can take time to earn their trust but when you do, and you bring hope to their situation, it is the most rewarding feeling.

Margot echoes these sentiments and admits her biggest regret is that she did not sign up to be a volunteer sooner – “I enjoy every minute I have in my advocacy role and hopefully make a person’s life have some meaning and purpose again when at times they’re in despair and feel nobody cares’.

Margot clearly gets an enormous amount of satisfaction from her role as a volunteer and we hope that her story resonates with those considering going into volunteering but haven’t quite taken the leap just yet.

There are many volunteering opportunities around Dumfries and Galloway and by becoming a volunteer Independent Advocate, you have the chance to meet people in your own community and make a difference to their life – your support and reassurance could mean the world to someone who just wants a voice so they can stand up and be heard.

If you think this is the perfect volunteering role for you, please get in touch by contacting Pamela Deans on 01387 247237 or email pamela.deans@dgadvocacy.co.uk for more information.