Volunteering for PANDAS - Hannah Gerken - PANDAS Foundation UK

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Hello PANDAS Guest Blog readers,

I’m Hannah and I manage the Helpline here at PANDAS Foundation. I have been a volunteer for coming up to a year now, starting off at email support, in the closed Facebook group and as a helpline volunteer, all very different but rewarding in their own ways. It has been incredible to have the opportunity to get involved in so many aspects of the charity. When I was asked if I would like to manage the helpline, I felt a huge sense of responsibility and fear of the unknown but was so excited to take on a new challenge, in order to improve the helpline for both our service users and volunteers.

What do I do?

Every day is different! From interviewing and training new volunteers, organising role play calls, to making sure that our current volunteers were happy in their role and voicing their thoughts, editing the call system, developing the training package and liaising with the rest of the team to make sure that everything was running smoothly… and that’s just my PANDAS life. I tend to get very immersed in my role and before I know it, the day is over! The helpline’s biggest achievement to date is having 100% coverage which means that every individual that calls will have someone on the line immediately to talk to… a very big deal when you have had the courage to seek support. I also do several shifts on the helpline supporting women and their families suffering perinatal mental illness.

 

I find this incredibly rewarding; there is often a clear difference in how the service user is feeling from when they called to after we have spoken. Being thanked for listening and providing practical advice is one of the most fulfilling feelings I have ever felt.

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What does volunteering mean to me?

Volunteer – a person who does something, especially helping other people, willingly and without being forced or paid to do so.

I think the definition of a volunteer says it all for me. I love what I do and am up for trying anything that is placed in front of me, all for the reward of someone saying thank you, or hearing the change in their voice from the start of the call compared to the end. There is no better feeling than to be able to provide a small piece of hope to someone who is struggling, to tell them that it is ok to feel how they are and that they are not the only one out there going through a really tough time. It is so important that we, as volunteers, make our service users feel worthy and that they are not alone and this is something that we have all effectively succeeded in doing.

 

Volunteering to me is a responsibility, privilege and opportunity that provides me with so many rewards. I have grown in confidence, self-worth and broken down so many barriers that I never thought I would. Mental illness is a subject very close to me and being able to support others through their struggles but also overcome my own has been one of my greatest achievements to date. Through PANDAS I’ve had the chance to attend further training and study days, actually meet the people I speak to everyday online and make memories I will never forget. I have become friends with some of the most inspiring people and have the pleasure of working together with them to achieve a shared goal.

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Volunteering has filled a little hole in my life and I honestly can’t imagine a day without PANDAS anymore! Happy volunteers week,

Lots of love and positive thoughts,

Hannah x

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AUTHOR

Catherine Jones

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