Uzma’s story

When I finished my 18 month apprenticeship in Business Sales at O2 and secured a full time position within Head Office, an opportunity that arose from the network that being involved with vInspired. Quite simply, I wouldn’t have the job I have today without volunteering, specifically with vInspired.

I came across vInspired during my “gap year” between college and an impending university degree. I’d already achieved 100 hours of volunteering with a local charity; Jigsaw, which aims to socialise young disabled adults, an issue close to my heart as my own sister was a service user at the time, and in doing so, I knew I wanted to do more than just volunteer.

vInspired provided the perfect platform for me to find a role in my community to take action and drive change. It was an empowering feeling. I continued to support vInspired as a mentor and now also an Ambassador too. My entire volunteering journey with vInspired and other organisations such as Lotto Good Causes, O2 Think Big and Feed the Homeless evenings in Manchester has been a rich but steep learning curve, meeting people and creating conversations. I’ve been able to represent these organisations at global conferences like One Young World in Bangkok, and nationally at events at Westminster, as well as locally at Labour and Conservative Party conferences.

I’ve also been heavily involved with O2’s Corporate Social Responsibility Scheme  and delivered training to 100’s of employees on Digital Skills which they’ve  independently delivered in local schools to disadvantaged children in the area.  This has really reiterated that volunteering isn’t something you do once a month,  as cheesy as it sounds, it’s “a way of life”.

The strength of this network lies in the like-minded nature of everyone I’ve  volunteered with and that’s only cemented by the fact that my best friend (who I  met through vInspired) and I have both felt empowered enough to channel  everything we’ve learnt, to work on our own project. It’s a vision and passion that  we’ve always had hidden within us but the beauty of taking part in youth social  action, for me, is that it’s brought it out from within.

I’ve never felt stronger, more confident and genuinely determined to make a  difference and I will whole heartedly shout about the fact that it wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for a platform like vInspired. Volunteering has taught me that some days, it will feel like the world is full of evil. But I stand firm on this; sometimes you have to actively look for good, but it’s there. Sometimes you have to coax it out with a warm smile and a cup of tea. But it’s there. And if you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll see an abundance of real, genuine hard workers, all fighting their individual battles and doing so successfully. That’s what inspires me.

by Uzma Chaudhry

Evie's story

I started volunteering in my local area a couple of years ago and quickly discovered that volunteering allowed me to learn lots of new skills. I have always been passionate about creating change in my local community and wanted to push myself on a personal level and grow as an individual which is why I signed up to vInspired.

Before starting with vInspired I wasn't very self-confident and I was unsure what to do next. I was volunteering for a local children's charity which was a great experience, however, I knew I wanted to make a bigger difference in my community.

vInspired and youth social action has had a massive impact on my life, not only have I increased my networks and met many new friends from around the country, but it has changed my outlook on life. I now enjoy seeking out new experiences and my confidence has increased lots. I now have a much better idea of what is involved in running campaigns and would now like a career in the charity sector. The skills I gained throughout the 9 month programme I undertook enabled me to be successful in gaining other volunteering opportunities which I could only dream of before.

As part of the programme I ran many events in my local community including workshops in local secondary schools and stalls in our local Sixth Form and Library. I had the opportunity to speak on a local radio station, contact my MP about issues that were important to me and also managed to get an article in an online newspaper. I do think that the campaigns have made a difference in my area as we ran many workshops in schools which opened student’s minds to issues they would not have considered previously.

What I enjoy most about volunteering is being able to make a difference, no matter how small you think that is. Volunteering teaches you many skills that you do not learn in school and helps you to find out who you are and what matters to you.

by Evie Hibbitt