Sajida Shah has been volunteering for a number of great causes across BwD for almost a quarter of a century. At present, she volunteers with the Kiran Women’s Group and is a Trustee of Community CVS.

Here is her brilliant volunteer story. Please read on to learn more about this inspirational woman and how volunteering has helped her and how her volunteering has enhanced our communities.

My name is Sajida, I am 64 yrs old and I volunteer with the Kiran Women’s Group as a Group Leader/Volunteer Manager.

My role involves managing volunteers, health and safety, volunteer training, finances, activities, outings, and all tasks related to group’s internal and external links with the help of three main volunteers. For example I ensure new volunteers have basic training to begin work as group volunteers according to their ability, also providing guidance on tasks related to group activities and beyond. Mainly cultural understanding, and rules and regulations to adhere to.

Our group has done a lot of fundraising for charitable causes. Our group also raised funds for Wesley Hall to benefit refugees and asylum seekers, as well as many causes that come to us such as, Secret Santa etc. We’ve also joined various groups in Lancashire such as the Unitarian Church in Oswaldtwistle luncheon club and Interfaith Sessions, Soup Dragons on Zoom during Covid-19, and arranged events, such as a “Jo Cox Event” in the Intack area of Blackburn, etc.

We also got some CVS Funding for volunteer expenses to help older clients and volunteer share taxis with new members of group for support, to ease participation, to cut costs for older people and for group volunteers’ travel.

I got into this role because I wanted to use my skills from previous volunteering and which got me into a paid job. I am a Qualified Interpreter/translator in 3 languages, bring experience of 20 years work with LCC, understanding of communications and cultural issues in South Asian Communities experience, training and teaching skills.

I got many of my skills from the volunteering that Community CVS supported me into – I gained advice and guidance skills as a volunteer for Citizen’s Advice Bureau and victim support, as a Marshal Millenniums Volunteer on Christmas Eve 2000, did Volunteer training through Community CVS, and gained managing skills from my volunteering and training. This volunteering led me into gaining one year working as NHS Link-worker, 15 years job skills and experience as Ageing Well, Asian Heritage Project worker for a Voluntary Organisation.

I’ve been volunteering since 1999 through the training and support of Community CVS. This support enabled me to set up Kiran Women’s Group in 2015 which became a member with Community CVS through which we get support for volunteer training, employment support for volunteers and for running the group. I had gone through a lot of education and training to gain experience in many areas that I make use of managing the group I set up in 2015.

I was made redundant in 2016, due to health reasons and the group has been my consolation and provided me with opportunity to continue work in the community. I have encouraged a lot of people from the group to volunteer.

I first got involved and found out about volunteering because I was encouraged by someone to go to Community CVS to find out which Organisations take volunteers and where I could be useful. I went to their office in a church building used in town and was referred to Citizen’s Advice Bureau due to my language skills in English, Urdu and Punjabi. The first task I was given as a volunteer at CAB was Interviewing Clients to determine needs and providing support from all communities around Blackburn and Darwen.

I also got paid work as a session-based Interpreter and Translator for Lancashire County Council’s Interpretation and Translation Service Preston, and my skills were useful for the Advice and Guidance of Asian Heritage Community in Blackburn and Darwen.

The reason I got involved as a volunteer? To learn about work and get experience after my college education and training, and to help people who couldn’t speak the language and needed help, people from diverse poor backgrounds needing help and advice, people needing help with consumer issues, etc.

What I love about my role is meeting different people, talking to them and solving their problems. I love to help them to gain understanding, awareness and information for self help in solving some problems. I’ve seen them gaining confidence and motivation in learning and completing tasks, and take charge of their own health and well being.

I have had so many benefits from volunteering. I gained a lot of confidence, motivation and experience while working as a volunteer for Community CVS and it helped me gain my first employment in year 2000 as a link worker for NHS Health Promotion. I then gained another employment in 2001 as an Ageing Well Project Worker for Age Concern Blackburn with Darwen (now Age UK Blackburn with Darwen) Working there as a single parent it was important to be near home for my children’s schools and the flexible times were suitable for my family’s care whilst working.

I would really recommend volunteering to others. Volunteering is the most rewarding work I found, as it gives you so much back for 2-3 hours of work a week. There’s a whole world of voluntary work out there to explore and be part of. It helps you as a person develop skills not only for work but much more in terms of life events, community benefit, family fun and most of all a whole lot of people to work with and for.

I feel that the family you get in terms of colleagues, clients and the richness that instils in your life cannot be compared in terms of monetary rewards.

So in a nut shell – Why do I volunteer? 1. Experiencing Communication 2. Gaining Confidence 3. Motivation 4. Network of Peers and Colleagues 5. A new family to be part of (new friends) 6. Broader horizons (trips and holidays and celebrating together) 7. Feel Good Factor 8. Learned Life skills 9. enjoyment (fun and games) 9. Reduced isolation in the community 10. Training 11. A healthy life!! etc.

The other friends and colleagues who volunteer I know they’ve gained all as above – now some of them have got paid work, all of them have gained benefits for physical and mental health from attending, some physically more active, and most of all, they’re more happy and content attending our activities and enjoy every minute of two hour sessions with group members and long time friendships have been formed.

My favourite volunteering memory was As volunteers we went to a house party of Gordon Taylor and they ordered Halal food for Muslim volunteers and CAB Staff. As she opened the food packs, Mrs. Taylor very innocently said “Enjoy, Its all Hal hal”. It made us all laugh and I chuckle at times when I look at the picture that was on the front page of the Citizen of our party. I still cherish the picture and Certificates for volunteering.

What song best sums up your volunteering experience?

“Let’s hear it for volunteers”

I would say to someone who was unsure about whether to take part in volunteering

“Give it a try and you’ll be hooked on it, it’s that brilliant”.

But you need to do it whole heartedly to gain the rewards in terms of inspiration and feel good factor.