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Sian's Blog

Sian's Volunteering Blog

This summer Sian joined us as a student work placement volunteer to share her skills with HARCVS. We think it’s a good opportunity to be able to share with young people the experience of working in a charity team in their local community.

Thank you Sian for all your hard work and flexibility (and for completing gardening jobs in the rain! ) It was good to have an extra pair of willing hands and new ideas in the team.

In this blog, Sian shares her story of her week with us... 


Prior to my first day, I came to Harrogate Community House for an induction. I met up with Frances Elliot (HELP Manager) and Liddy Swales (Business Support Officer) and we spoke about the jobs I will be doing and how it will benefit me and my experience as well as the impact for those I will be helping. We went through the confidentiality and data protection policies as well as the routine regulations. I was shown a helpful volunteer booklet which outlined the regulations as well as the rewards and potential risks of tasks I might be given. Once we had finished I was given a tour of Community House - everyone I met was friendly and welcoming.     

Day 1

I arrived at Harrogate Community House on Monday morning where I met Andy (Service Support Worker). We went up to the HELP office where I then met Christine (Harrogate Service Coordinator) and Brian (Service Support Worker). I was informed that I would be accompanying Brian on a gardening job and we were told that there are lots of hedges that would need to be cut back. When we got there we got there we were shown around the garden by the owner and she told us what she wanted doing and how far back she wanted the hedges. We then got our tools and equipment out of the van, Brain explained that the electric hedge trimmer he’s using is very long and loud therefore I would have to stand up near the van. Once it was at a safe distance I started collecting all the cuttings which were on the ground, I used a rake and a brush as well as my hands to put all the cuttings in the bags.

Once we had finished we put all the bags in the van - in total we filled five bags! Brian showed me how to correctly lift with my legs and not with my back. We took all the bags to the Harrogate household waste recycling centre and emptied all five bags in the recycling.     

Day 2 

On my second day I worked with Brian again. When we arrived at the clients’ house we were shown around the garden to see what they wanted doing. The client told us that she wanted the hedge along her driveway and down the side path cutting back so she can have better access and she also asked for the bushes trimmed down. She took us into her back garden where she asked for the brambles pulling out and her patio to be cleared so she can sit down.  We started on the driveway, Brian cut back the hedge while I stood at a distance, once Brian had finished the driveway hedge I started to pick up the cuttings and place them in the bags. Once all the cuttings in the front garden and the side path were collected, I helped Brian in the back garden to clear the patio and pull out the brambles.

After lunch Brian rang Andy to see if he had finished his job because we needed help clearing all the bramble bushes. Andy arrived with another volunteer and we cleared up all the brambles and cleared the patio - while it was raining! In total (front and back garden) we filled up 8 bags of cuttings and brambles, and offloaded all 8 bags at the recycling centre again.

Day 3

When I arrived at Harrogate Community House I went to the HELP office. I was greeted by Jen (Administrator & Scheduler), Lizzie and Anna (Project Development Workers) and they set me up on a computer. We discussed some local businesses and companies based in the Harrogate area that work with charities or might be interested in working with them. I was given a research task, using a list of local businesses I found out their profit, turnover and how many employees they have. This was so they could have some background information of how large the business is.

Later on in the day I was accompanied by a volunteer to fold informative letters and surveys to send to service users. We folded the materials and placed them in envelopes. In the afternoon the stamps had arrived so I placed the stamps on to the letters so that they could be sent off.

Sian in the Harrogate Community House Information Centre with Liddy and Sheila promoting our Volunteering Directory  

Day 4

On the fourth day I worked with Liddy (Business Support Officer) in the CVS office in the morning. I had to come up with Tweets to advertise volunteering opportunities and write them in a spreadsheet, ready to be used.  The Tweets had to be unique and interesting to encourage people to volunteer.

In the evening I attended an Arthritis Care meeting with Frances (HELP Manager) to promote and make people aware of the support the HELP team provides. At the meeting I placed leaflets about the services on each table and I went around and spoke to people. When the meeting started Frances was talking about the services that they provide and how it benefits people and can become life changing.  Frances also spoke about scams and how easy it is for anyone to become a victim. She had a ‘spot the scam’ task/game and attendees had to identify the clues. I went around and spoke to more people about scams and how easy it is to be convinced on the phone and internet as well as face-to-face.

The people who attended the meeting were really friendly - they all asked lots of questions and were really fascinated with the services that HELP offers as well as about the scam awareness. Near the end of the meeting I helped the volunteers serve the tea and I made sure that every table had a plate of biscuits. This meeting helped me to understand that anyone can suffer from arthritis and it affects everyone in different ways.   

Day 5

On my last day I worked in the CVS office again - I’ve come up with more tweets about the different voluntary opportunities in Harrogate and Ripon. I have also carried out some office jobs such as creating a new Feedback Form Box for the events and training that they run.

I have really enjoyed my past week working and learning from the CVS and HELP teams. It’s been really beneficial and I’ve learnt so much – and the gardening has been much more interesting than I thought it would be! The staff and volunteers have been really helpful and friendly; they have answered all questions I’ve asked in detail. I would like to say a big thank you for giving me this wonderful opportunity and letting me work alongside the fabulous team.