THE BLOG

From Zero to Hero - Using Volunteering to Change Your Life

23/02/2016 15:23 GMT | Updated 23/02/2017 10:12 GMT

When my mum died of lung cancer in 2011, I made a pact to myself: to do something good in her memory. I wasn't without problems to overcome, though. I had low confidence and self-esteem - but I was determined. I wanted to do this for my mum, who stood by me unconditionally through my chequered past.

As a recovering alcoholic and addict, I already felt like a bit of an outsider and I had a sense of nervousness when it came to meeting new people. I decided to volunteer for Marie Curie, the charity whose nurses had cared for my mum in her own home, in the lead up to her death. It would be dishonest of me to say I wasn't terrified! I remember it well: walking up to Brixton station, where I'd be wearing a bright yellow hat and tabard, chatting to the public and receiving donations. The only thing that kept me walking towards the meeting point was the thought of letting mum down if I didn't and yes - it was nerve racking for the first 15 minutes, but after that I got into the swing of things and enjoyed speaking to the people who came up to us.

After I'd tackled my first collection, I was asked be Chairperson for our newly formed local fundraising group, by Cassie Emmanuel from Marie Curie. I went along - but I was worried about meeting new people and the initial meeting was strange. These people were from a different walk of life to me and this volunteering idea was normal to them. As time went on, we became close and I realised that, by opening up my own world to different people, who do different things, I have grown my confidence. It's not to say that when I'm standing there with a collection tin I don't feel nervous, but I'm able to overcome it by doing it over and over again.

The journey to the stage I'm at now hasn't been easy. I've dressed up as Daffy (the Marie Curie daffodil mascot), which you'd think would be easy as your face is completely covered by a mask. Let me tell you - it's not. It's probably scarier than anything else! I've also been in promotional videos, I've done it all. But now, when I go out there in preparation for a volunteering shift I can tell myself, "You've done it before. It's not going to kill you."

So much has happened since that initial starting point, walking up to Brixton tube station five years ago. My natural instinct has always been to say no when asked to do something, but it just shows you can say yes and enjoy it - you might even learn something along the way. I made a pact to myself and I'm sticking to it.

It's not just me who's seen the benefit, either. I've encouraged many people from the hostels I work in to take part. Like me, they're nervous at first, but now I've got people asking me, "When can we do it again?" After feeling like an outsider in society, doing this sort of thing is a way of being part of the community and starting to follow a normal way of life. I'd tell anyone to do it, and use it as a positive way to develop themselves whilst supporting a great cause. That's the reason behind it all at the end of the day, and the sense of achievement is second to none.

Kenny will be out collecting funds in Clapham and Balham this March, for the Great Daffodil Appeal, Marie Curie's biggest annual fundraising campaign. Volunteers are still needed - find out how you can sign up here or call 0845 601 3107.

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