“Volunteering in the shop helped me to learn what the culture is like in the UK.”
Our 14 shops are a great way for the local community to support our work. But for Kalpana Pandey, volunteering at her local shop gave her the sense of belonging she was looking for, following her relocation from India.
Kalpana shares her experiences of how volunteering helped her adjust to a new culture and feel part of the community:
“When my husband and I moved to the UK I was so sad leaving my family behind and I remember feeling really homesick at first. I became quite unhappy before I realised I had to do something about it. I saw an advert asking for volunteers at St Catherine’s shop in Redhill and thought ‘Let’s give it a go’. So, in 2014 I joined as a volunteer and was so proud to be serving the community in my own unique way.
“Volunteering in the shop helped me to learn what the culture is like in the UK. When I started volunteering, I would listen a lot and watch how people communicate. At first, I was quite hesitant with my English. I would ask my colleagues to correct me if I said something wrong. By talking to customers and colleagues I soon picked things up, and after nine years my English has really improved.
“When I left India, I felt it was a more male dominated society and everyone appeared more judgemental, so I was extremely shy when we first moved and I found it difficult to talk to people at work. In the UK, things feel more equal to me and everyone gives me respect. I don’t feel judged, I feel free and I have got my self-confidence back.
“I enjoyed my time in the shop so much that I now work for St Catherine’s as a Retail Operations Assistant, working across several of our shops. I enjoy moving around because each store is unique and I’m faced with new challenges every day.
“I have Fibromyalgia so sometimes the more fast-paced, physical aspects of the job can be quite challenging for me. The volunteers really help me on these busier days. Some of our volunteers have been here a long time so I have learnt a lot from them and I will often ask for their advice. This makes them feel part of the team, which is important because they are giving us their valuable time for free and without them our charity would not work.
“I love everything about working here. It feels amazing knowing that the money we raise is helping people. I had never really heard about end of life care before. In India, when a family member reaches the end of their life, their relations care for them.
“I am incredibly proud to be doing my bit and I continue to work hard so we can reach more people in need.”
If you would like to volunteer for St Catherine’s or find out more about volunteering opportunities, we’d love to hear from you! Contact our volunteering team at email@example.com or view our current vacancies.