Post | April 2024 | Volunteer Stories | 5 min read

Why Volunteer? It’s a Passion!

Written by Kim Kynaston, Director of Phoenix Youth Provision
A head and shoulders photo of Kim. She is smiling and is wearing a blue and white top. She has wavy blonde hair and blue eyes.

I have always lived in Whittlesey and the surrounding villages. The village of Coates was where I first decided to volunteer as a Rainbow Guider in 1989 and was hooked, that is when my passion for volunteering began.

I also became involved in Neighbourhood Watch, trained as a Coates Primary School Governor (parent), and a little later, reading with Year 6 children - I loved it!

A paid role as a Teaching Assistant came up at the local secondary school and having gained so much more confidence as a volunteer I decided to apply. I got the job and was elated! This was the start of my career and volunteering gave me the experience I needed.

Working for the school was great and I continued as a Governor. The Youth Club in Whittlesey needed more staff and so I decided to join, which is where I met my long-term friends, Bryonie and Steph. Working with young people in a different environment was also very rewarding because you found out more about them as people within their community. It takes time to build trust and respect but when you have that, they opened-up to us and you were able to see them grow.

In 1996, I decided that working with disadvantaged young people was where I wanted to be. So, with a heavy heart I left the school and clubs and became a Residential Worker in a children’s home in Peterborough. I loved the work but felt frustrated that these young people didn’t get the support they much needed from other children’s services, education and the justice system. As workers, we couldn’t stop them leaving the home and getting into trouble, including going missing. When they reached 16 years, all their other offences would go against them and they would be sentenced to long prison sentences. The Law changed in 1998 and Youth Offending Teams were brought in.

I joined Peterborough’s Youth Offending Team in 2001 and this became my dream job. It was stressful and I had to do a lot of training, including gaining a Foundation Degree in Youth Justice, however the frustrations from the past meant I could do something about it. During this time, I headed up a Volunteer Pool and supported them in their role of Referral Order Volunteers, which I enjoyed immensely. Unfortunately, I was coming back from a Young Offender Unit and the car was hit by a lump of metal and I became ill, so I had no choice to take voluntary redundancy in 2010. 

I was able to return to work in 2011 as a Case Manager with a Drug and Alcohol Service. This role was with vulnerable adults which was a change to working with young people, but still very rewarding. We also had a Volunteering Programme for recovering service users.

There was one young woman who was sadly dying due to her alcohol consumption and in a very bad place. We worked together to reduce her drinking until she was in the position to apply to go to rehab. We had spoken often about her being a Volunteer once she completed rehab, and I believe it was part of her motivation. She was accepted, received treatment, came home alcohol free and became a Volunteer for our service. It was a very rewarding time to see her shine with confidence and become a valued volunteer.

Unfortunately, I became ill again and decided to retire due to ill health in 2016. My dad was also critically ill in hospital at the time, so it was the right decision for me. He luckily survived but needed a lot of support, so I helped my mum to get him what he needed to have a life at home.

In 2017 I decided to volunteer at the Peterborough Drug and Alcohol Service. Looking after my dad and my continuing health problem became challenging, so reluctantly I had to leave the Service in 2018. However, my passion for volunteering didn’t change so I joined the Neighbourhood Watch again and there I met Robin, another passionate volunteer.

Then came Covid!

Of course, I couldn’t sit at home without volunteering, so I joined the NHS Responders as a Check-in and Chat person. Whilst I was waiting for the Royal Voluntary Service to receive calls from the isolated, a friend shared a tray of blue poppies on Facebook and I had a light bulb moment to create a Facebook page to get people to knit blue poppies for the NHS. Now, I wasn’t a great knitter, but I created the site and couldn’t believe the response both locally and nationally!

That was me, busy during Covid - although I certainly didn’t do it alone, several people helped me to run the site and manage the influx of blue poppies from all over. We raised nearly£3,000 for the NHS and gave many poppies to the care homes locally. My star was Eileen, an elderly mum of a friend, who knitted hundreds of beautiful poppies for us throughout Covid.

It was a lovely sunny day on 15th of June 2021, I went to Coates to deliver a card for my cousin’s birthday. I got out of my car and it started to roll towards a neighbour's house. Fight or flight kicked in and I put my foot in the car to stop it, unfortunately I hit the accelerator rather than the brake and that was the last thing I remember until I started to wake up at Addenbrookes Hospital four weeks later. I was told by doctors that I was lucky to be alive and that I owed my life to an off-duty Police Officer, Harriet, and others who heard a car horn and a crash. Harriet managed the scene and got the right back-up, including the Air Ambulance who took me to hospital. This is volunteering at it’s best and I can’t thank them enough. I had multiple life-threatening injuries, but after many operations I thankfully survived to tell the story. Do not try and save a moving car!

One of my major injuries was a crushed pelvis which meant I had a fixation on my stomach and was bed bound. At that time I didn’t know whether I would walk again. I had a hospital bed when I returned home and happened to be looking through Facebook when I saw a post from the Phoenix Youth Provision (PYP) in Whittlesey asking for volunteers.

The post explained that they were trying to reform a youth provision in Whittlesey and the surrounding villages as there was a huge need. There hadn’t been any provision for 12 years, which annoyed me intensely. I’m not sure why, but I had a feeling that the writer of the post was my friend Steph so I messaged her and I was right. We chatted and Steph told me that Bryonie, my other friend and others I knew were involved. That was it! I didn’t know what I could do but I was sure I could contribute in some way, so my volunteering life was back and it felt brilliant.

The PYP have come a long way since that time and so have I! I know working with the team to move PYP forward has motivated me and given me so much confidence. This is what volunteering does for people, and the reason for my story is that anyone can do it, even when you're in a hospital bed.

There have been times when I've had to take a step back, volunteering is flexible! I am not well enough to be employed, but still have skills and well enough to make a difference as a volunteer.

Phoenix Youth Provision are very inclusive and flexible, so would love an influx of volunteers. However, I am writing this not only for the PYP but for anyone trying to decide if volunteering would be right for them and my advice would be go for it!

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