GO ON - VOLUNTEER - IT CERTAINLY CHANGED MY LIFE
EMBRACE CHANGE AND OPEN UP A WORLD OF POSSIBLITIES
We all yearn to live a meaningful life and one way to do that is to use our personal strengths in the service of something larger than ourselves.
Volunteering and helping others by putting something back into our community is a positive way to fulfil that instinctive yearning and for me it even led to whole new way of life.
After 25 years as an apprentice and craftsman in the electricity industry, I was really very scared for my future when a nasty back problem ended that career at the age of 40.
I had plenty of practical experience, having worked in virtually every kind of environment, from the basement of a nuclear defence bunker to the roof of Canterbury Cathederal, but along with my City & Guilds electrical qualifications, that experience was virtually worthless if I could no longer perform heavy manual tasks. After the worst 6 months of recuperation, though still in pain, I was beginning to get extremely restless and I started to look for a new career.
I had done a lot of representative and advocacy work with colleagues in the electricity industry and I decided that training and working with the Citizens Advice Bureau might be a good idea. That decision proved to be one of the best I've ever made.
I didn't know at the time but nine months of first class intensive training and a further nine months working as a volunteer adviser led to a degree-level qualification in interpersonal skills and my next role, helping students at Thanet College.
After five wonderful years at the college, I ended up running the student welfare unit and got myself elected to both Thanet Council and the County Council. My 25 years of manual work gave me a good local grounding and five years working with young people at Thanet College was a very positive experience indeed, but it was the 18 months with the CAB that proved absolutely priceless.
That relatively short period changed my life and provided me with a wide range of knowledge and skills that have proved invaluable as a district and county councillor.
So the message is this: if you have some spare time, be it enforced or just through luck, make the most of it and try volunteering. It could well bring you more happiness than you ever thought possible and you have absolutely no idea where it could lead.
Following further training with the Improvement & Development Agency Leadership Academy I went on to become the Leader of the Opposition at TDC for two and a half years and then the Leader of the Council for a another two and a half year period.