Emma, a local mum volunteering as Community Space Manager.

Emma lives and works in Eastbourne.  She volunteers as Community Space Manager with the local community centre.  She shared her story with Helen Burton from Eastbourne Volunteers.

In 2012, Emma resigned from a teaching career in order to care for her son who has Autism. Within 6 months she realised that she needed to find something to do that would fit in with her family life. “I knew that a paid job would not allow this flexibility, so I looked into volunteering.”

Emma first volunteered with Families for Autism, as they had given her and her son a lot of support. “I wanted to give something back to the Charity and was able to do this in a variety of ways. The main role I took on was planning and preparation for clubs and events and I was able to do this from home, which suited me very well.”

Whilst volunteering with Families for Autism, Emma met the founder of the Eastbourne Volunteers and learnt about their plans to launch a new community space.  “This appealed to me in a big way! The project involves tackling social isolation and creates an environment where everyone is welcome. The Hub wanted to develop an inclusive art, craft and wellness drop-in, where cost was not a barrier to taking part. Having an autistic child can be very isolating (and exhausting) and it’s not often you can find somewhere to relax, regroup and do crafts at the same time.”

Helen asked Emma if she would be interested in managing the Community Space, developing activities, helping with bookings and encouraging different service users to come and try out the sessions“It took me a few days to think it through. But I realised that I still had the skills to do this and that it would be flexible enough to fit around the needs of my son.”

 How does volunteering work for you?

“At the time, I was suffering from depression and lacked purpose in life, but I felt I still had lots to offer and volunteering fulfilled this need.

Being in this role means that I can bring my son with me during the school holidays if I need to. It has benefited him too, as he is starting to become more sociable with people he doesn’t know. 

Whilst I still suffer from depression periodically, this volunteering role helps to give me focus, as well as a purpose to continue doing the best for myself, my son and our local community. I feel very lucky to have been given this opportunity. “

 What have you gained from volunteering?

“I have been with the project for just under a year and love every minute of it. I have had the opportunity to meet different members of our community, which I wouldn’t have otherwise.  I have been able to unleash my creative side within the project too.  The best thing about this role is knowing that all members of the community have somewhere safe, friendly and relaxing to come for a chat, a drink or to try out something new that doesn’t cost the earth, and I helped facilitate this.”