Aziz had been thinking about a career in social work for some time, as he wanted a job that could bring positive change to his local community. Working in retail management, Aziz decided to volunteer at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice in the Family and Carer Support Team, so that he could get a better range of skills and knowledge needed for his desired career. Nearly two years after he signed up to volunteer, Aziz has now secured a place at university to study social work. Here, he shares his story…

My background has always been in retail management but I’ve always aspired to become a social worker. I wanted a job that could have a positive impact on society, by supporting people during difficult or distressing times.

Working in retail has given me some good skills, such as multitasking, interpersonal skills and managing health & safety risks. But I wanted to gain a better understanding of what it could be like to work in social care before I committed to making the change, and so I thought volunteering could be a great way to do this.

I started volunteering at Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice in 2017, after seeing they needed ‘Volunteer Support Workers’ as part of the Family and Carer Support Team. Although it’s slightly different to the role of a social worker, I thought it would be a fantastic way for me to get a taste of what a career in social work could be like as there are lots of similarities.

Before I started my role, I was really surprised at how committed the Hospice was to training volunteers to ensure they have the right skills and knowledge to support people. I have been given the opportunity to complete lots of free courses, such as ‘understanding loss and grief’, ‘how to handle difficult conversations’, ‘understanding the importance of confidentiality’ and more. Not only have these courses given me the confidence to go out and support people, but they’ve been really valuable in developing my own personal skills for my aspired career. 

My role as a Volunteer Support Worker is incredibly varied and rewarding. It involves supporting people who are in their initial stages of bereavement and finding it hard to cope. I will visit individuals in their own home or see them at the Hospice, where I will support them practically by helping with day-to-day tasks, such as sorting out their finances, obtaining benefits advice, dealing with council tax, and organising paperwork.

Some of my clients need emotional support too, to prevent them from becoming depressed and isolated. I do this by informing them of local community day centres, lunch clubs, or simply by being a friendly, familiar face who listens with empathy.

Volunteering at the Hospice has been a huge benefit to me. Thanks to the skills and experience I gained, I was able to secure a place at university as a mature student to study social work – despite having a completely different work background. I’m proud to say that I have now finished my first year, which is thanks to the knowledge I learned through volunteering.

Volunteering is also really good for my personal wellbeing. It’s so rewarding to do something positive for others, especially when they’re going through a really difficult and upsetting time in their life. What I enjoy most about this role is when I see a smile or sense of relief on the face of one of my clients after resolving an issue for them. It’s a feeling I can’t get for doing anything for myself.

I’m so glad to have become a Volunteer Support Worker for Birmingham St Mary’s. It really has helped me to develop new skills which have been essential for my CV and career growth. Volunteering is a fantastic way to test out a new potential career path, or even just help boost your confidence and wellbeing. The Hospice staff support you every step of the way so you never feel like you’re on your own. I’d recommend it to anyone as it could be the most rewarding thing you do.

Thank you Aziz for sharing your story with us. Birmingham St Mary’s is currently recruiting more Volunteer Support Workers to join its growing team.

If you think you could give up your time to support people who are recently bereaved, please take a look here to find out more information on how you can join the team. Like Aziz said, volunteering is a great way to learn new skills, increase your knowledge, and boost your confidence.