Volunteers’ Week: Meet our volunteer Marianne

Marianne Williams, 31, lives near Canterbury and works in Digital Services for the NHS. She had previously enjoyed volunteering in a kitchen for a charity while at university, and decided to give it another go, this time for HOLG.

Here, Marianne tells us what she enjoys about her role:

1.       When and why did you start volunteering with HOLG?
I began working with HOLG in June 2022. I’d volunteered before and was really keen to do it again. I felt the day-to-day slog of everyday life wasn’t as fulfilling as it could be, and really wanted to do something useful, and meet some new people. I’m not attached to a partner or children, so instead of just spending the weekends doing the usual chores, I felt like I had time to give something back to the community.

I was looking on a volunteering website for something that matched my skills and saw that HOLG needed people to help in the kitchen at their bereavement weekends. I knew this was something I could do; I also don’t have much experience with children so I thought it might be a good opportunity to learn a bit more about them, for when I have children of my own one day.

2.       What does your role involve?
My job is to prepare the food and drinks for all the children and the volunteers working with them at bereavement weekends. I mostly prep and cook simple food, such as pizzas, jacket potatoes, salads etc, as well as making sure there are treats like biscuits.

I work with one other volunteer and we usually have another with us who gets things ready for the activities and helps us out if we need it, so we’re always in team.

3.       What preparation did you receive for your role?
The preparation was really good; I can be a little anxious sometimes, but I was sent an email before I started with every practical detail I needed, such as who I’d be working with, what food I’d be making, how to get to the venue, even which door to use which was reassuring for me.

They also offer emotional support too. When I was first thinking about working with HOLG, my manager at my job was a bit concerned about how it might affect me and asked if there would be someone I could talk to if I needed to, and I was reassured that there is. Even though I don’t get involved with the children on a one-to-one basis, HOLG makes sure you know that if you feel a bit sad, you can always talk to Debbie or Caroline, or even get involved in the debrief at the end of the day, if you’d like to.

4.       What do you like most about your role?
I like that I don’t have to get too involved and too invested emotionally but can still make a difference. I mainly see the children at lunchtime and breaktimes, and when they’re doing their activities. To be honest I’d probably end up crying if I was in the thick of it during the weekends, but this way, I can still do something useful. I hear a lot about how keeping everyone fed and watered is an important part of the nurturing and support that HOLG provides, and that’s so true.

5.       How much time do you give to HOLG?
I probably do around six hours, once a month. Some months are busier than others. As I work full-time, I just do one day of the weekend; I get there about 10am and leave shortly before 4pm.

6.       What would you say to someone thinking about volunteering?
I’d say think about why you want to volunteer and what you can give – and then just go for it! It’s really rewarding; I’ve started keeping a gratitude journal and it’s really nice to be able to put things in there like my volunteering that makes me feel like I’ve made a difference, rather than just achieving something for myself.

It’s nice to do something different as well. Originally, I was looking at admin roles, but I thought I might get a bit bored doing something like that. Also, during my day job I spend a lot of time on a computer and talking to people on screens so it’s nice to do something practical, away from a screen. I’m a bit of an ‘extroverted introvert’ so I do get a lot out of meeting people and being with them, and I get on really well with the other volunteers, they’re all so lovely.

You can find out about volunteering here.