I wanted my first blog to document my crazy travel experiences, however I’m boring and don’t go anywhere so it was back to the drawing board. I decided to do something else in my life that I truly enjoyed, so I thought what better than my volunteering experience at Superstar’s café, which can hopefully convince a few others to get involved in something similar.
I’ll be completely honest I didn’t initially join up due to my undying desire to help other people or to feel more fulfilled with my life. Like most people in fifth year, my school was on at me about starting to broaden my CV to improve possible job prospects and make me stand out. Simply to have something to talk about on the impending careers day I started to research activities I could get involved in and soon came across volunteering. However, I knew if this was something I was seriously going to partake in then it had to be something hands on that I would enjoy. I had heard of Superstars café as it was local in my area and thought I would find it more interesting than helping in say a charity shop, as I already had a part time job in retail which I HATED. It was a café which offered job opportunities for people with physical/learning difficulties as well as autism. It also offered a youth club with a range of activities on different nights such as bowling, drama and crafts.
In terms of getting started I was a bit worried in case it involved and interview or experience as interviews still made me nervous and I had next to no previous experience. Thankfully it was just a simple informal conversation over the phone, and I was ready to start immediately the following Tuesday. When Tuesday came around, I remember being so anxious not knowing what to expect. I started off helping with the bowling club at the local leisure centre and thankfully very quickly got into the swing of things. It was mostly about just being social which is something I would say I’m quite good at, I think? I had worried I wouldn’t know what to talk about as I was so ignorant to special needs and what it meant due to lack of experience. I soon realised like the young people of this club where more like me than I first thought and spent hours talking to the girls about music, TV shows and weekend plans. I found soon found it came very natural and more importantly was so much fun!
After a few months only doing one night a week at bowling with young people aged 16-24 with special needs, I decided I wanted to be involved in other activities with different people for even more experience. The members where constantly asking me was I coming to watch their production of ‘the lion king’ and I could finally say yes if I joined the drama club, so I did. My experience at this was probably one of my favourites from my time volunteering here. It was so refreshing sharing the company of people not afraid to put themselves out there and really go for it. Thankfully I was only responsible for helping in practice and didn’t have an actual part, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it quite so much. (I’m no where near as fearless as them) It was so rewarding when all the tickets at Burnavon theatre sold out and the production was complete, everyone had worked so hard and it clearly showed. I knew then id go to every show they put on whether I still worked there or not, a promise which I have so far kept might I add. Honestly, I can’t explain how much I would encourage someone to get involved in something like this if possible. It was the most rewarding and memorable experience and proves in my opinion, that volunteering can also be a bit of fun and light-hearted. Of course, there is also the benefit that made me join in the first place which is that it is favourable among employers, but you get so much more from it.
There is also loads more behind the scene stuff available to do if you didn’t think the more hands on activities where for you. For example, I also offered to help with money collection the odd Saturday morning outside shopping centres and in the town. Another highly anticipated within the club are the seasonal parties. They where always the talk of bowling nights, particularly the Halloween ones as everyone always loved the fancy dress parties the dress. The absolute scramble to find the best costume to win a prize. It was a great chance to meet up with the other volunteers and enjoy a three-course meal. I mean if the prospect of free food doesn’t convince you then I just don’t know.
There’s literally too much stuff to get involved with to list as they’re constantly creating new activities and opportunities. I could guarantee there is something that would appeal to everyone though, no matter your interests. If you’ve just skim read the rest of this blog due to lack of interest or you just don’t feel like reading right now at least take away one main point. Volunteering in any form is one of the most worthwhile experiences you could take part it. Although it can be hard with uni, a job and spending time with friends and family, trust me I know. However, if you ever get the opportunity then I say go for it!
Katie Doyle is a final year Bsc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram-@katiedoyle54 LinkedIn-https://www.linkedin.com/in/katie-doyle-9a0551195/ Twitter-https://twitter.com/ktdoyle6