Sandra, from volunteer to paid work

Sandra came to us during a pause in lockdown in August 2020, interested in signing up as an early response volunteer. She had worked for a welfare charity in London and not long moved to Bedford. As well as being a good use of her skills, volunteering could also help her find her feet in the town.

A couple of months later she had swung into action, and looked completely at home, coming in once a week to make calls to carers.  Soon after, she successfully applied for one of our paid sessional worker activity roles. Then fast forward to September 2021, when Sandra was appointed from a raft of candidates as our very first mental health carer link worker.

Many moons ago, I was a carer for a family relative (with physical disabilities and dementia) and since that time, I always hoped to have an opportunity to support unpaid carers – never in a million years would I have Covid to thank for that opportunity!!!

There are 4 reasons I decided to volunteer:

  • Mid pandemic, and out of work – this was the only time to give back to the community and not feel pressured to have a paid job
  • To get distracted, even for 1 day, from Covid related impact on every aspect of our lives
  • To get a purpose – and a reason to get those nice clothes on and feel “normal” amidst “new normal” reality
  • To fill in that expanding gap on my CV


My first role was welcoming newly registered carers into our service and finding out more about their lives and circumstances. That led to the paid position of the Sessional Support Worker, hosting carers events but mainly getting to know them, chatting and feeling in awe of the fact that I got paid for what seems just pleasure and not work!

When the restriction eased, I jumped at the advertised opportunity to join the charity in a full time paid capacity in the pilot mental health transformation project, to support carers of their family/friends with Serious Mental Illness. Needless to say, I love my job, the carers I support and the charity I am proud to be a part of.

Volunteering has enormous advantages in so many ways and is in my experience definitely the best pathway to employment – as a volunteer one is getting trained on the job and if/when the right opportunity comes along, one can hit the ground running. And as evident in my personal experiences, continue to smile!