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Interviewer:  So tell us a bit about yourselves.

Marie:  I studied politics and sociology at the University of Cambridge and graduated last year.  I’ve just spent this year at home doing a bit of work and earning some money.  So that’s why I had the chance to volunteer, particularly while I was furloughed, I was looking for something else to do with my time.  I do a bit of work as a barista and also do tutoring.

Matthew:  I’m Matthew and I finished full time work just over a year ago and had the pleasure of working for myself and being semi-retired, which is brilliant.  But as the pandemic unfolded, it became clear that there were a lot of people doing a huge amount of work, and particularly in the health service, who were doing fantastic work on that.  If there was something that I could do that would contribute to the effort that so many other people were putting in, it was, it would be a good thing to do.  So I signed up and have been doing a little bit of volunteering outside of Volunteer Now and then saw the Volunteer Now opportunities.  And that seemed like a good way of getting some further work, which has worked very well for me.

Interviewer:  And what are your other passions?

Marie:  We’re both really interested in climate change research.  So I’m going to go on to study a master’s and in climate change in society – talking about policy as it relates to climate change, and how we can make a difference in terms of shaping government’s responses and Matthew’s sort of similar work, actually, since he’s retired as well.

Matthew:  Yes.  Yeah, I think it’s a huge challenge we’re facing.  The damage that my generation has done to your generation is huge.  So if I ever think there’s nothing to be done, that’s easily contested by the scale of the problems that have to be faced by your generation.  I’m going to be okay… But the next generation has got such challenges to face and we need to do something about the consumption of energy and carbon emissions of my generation to make things work for your generation.

Interviewer:  When did you first volunteer with Volunteer Now and why did you get involved?

Marie:  I did NCS (National Citizen Service), which is a project in Northern Ireland run by Volunteer Now.  I also helped as a leader in it, and I remember the Volunteer Now staff who looked after us.  I just remember them being fantastic.  So that was actually my first experience with Volunteer Now.  But otherwise, just now at the vaccination centre.

Matthew:  I was doing a little bit of work with the Ballymena running club which has been doing some volunteering around the town, I’m doing deliveries, which has been a nice opportunity.  But I sort of felt that I it was only a few hours a week.  Given the scale of the challenge of the vaccination programme, this was a good opportunity to contribute to and get over 100,000 people through Ballymena Vaccination Centre.  Volunteer Now has just been fantastic at making that happen.

Interviewer:  And what does volunteering bring to your life personally?

Marie:  Like I said, or like you (Matthew) said, sorry… we really are doing nothing compared to the nurses, the scale at which the health care workers are going constantly, and they’ve been doing that for a year, more than a year now.  I see the exhaustion of the real emotional stress of that – I like the fact that we can demonstrate our respect for that, in a small way, and help in any way.

Matthew:  And I think it’s good for meeting people too you know… you do have a unique opportunity to work with people who you wouldn’t normally work with, with the healthcare staff, and with the other volunteers.  And there’s just such a diverse bunch of people, different backgrounds, different ages, and different life experiences.  And it’s nice chatting during breaks – you get to know somebody a little bit better when you’re sort of under pressure to get things done with them.  It does help you understand their life and know them a little bit better than if you would just meet them in the street.

Marie:  And actually, just on that note, two of the volunteers that we were working with: the couple who married, but recently – they’re only six months here and are from India, and they’re absolutely brilliant.  But for them, it’s been a connection to meeting Ballymena people.  And also then they’ve been having such a hard time of getting work so for them it’s a way to work and contribute, which was really nice.  I love meeting them, they’re fantastic people. Really good.

Matthew:  Yes, good for connecting and mixing in with people.  It’s good to have those opportunities for people to cross over from a pocket of society to another pocket of society.  And volunteering does do that very effectively.

Interviewer:  And my last question would be: are there any funny stories or interesting moments from your volunteering journey that you would like to share with us today?

Matthew:  Yeah, I suppose for me, there was one occasion when somebody had kind of gone in the wrong line in the vaccination centre, and kind of ended up going through the queue and through the administration, and then out the door without getting the vaccine.  And it was great that I was there to be able to address those kind of issues that sometimes happen when we’re going in different directions.

Marie:  Actually, yeah.  When I did my first shift, I had a lot of the regular people that come in to Costa Café where I work and I was like “Oh, hey, fancy a little cappuccino, with an extra shot, or whatever it is”.  I had a lot of them kind of appreciated, “Oh, you serve me my coffee as well”.  So I thought was quite funny.

Matthew:  Because it’s not that common that you’re working with such a range of ages.  Because we’ve got people from Marie’s age through to people like me on the same shift, and you’ve got different qualities and different abilities you get from people in those different life stages.  And that’s a pleasure.

Interviewer:  How’s it been to volunteer with someone close to you?

Marie:  It’s nice, because I hear a lot of the stories from Matthew as well, like before I started, so it’s nice to be able to share that a little bit and… of course, you’re going to be a little bit embarrassed with your father, especially.  Oh, but I get one of the volunteer who comes over to me and says “Your dad is so funny”.  And I’m like “Go and see…” *laughs* You know, I know him very well.  So it’s sort of is interesting.  It’s nice – I wouldn’t change it.

Matthew:  The day that we both started: Marie came in a day when I was working.  One of the other volunteers showed Marie how it all worked and trained Marie, so she wouldn’t have the indignity of being trained by her father, which would have been too much for anybody, I think.  It was nice that somebody else was able to actually take Marie through the process and the job, etc.

Marie:  He also gives me a lift in, so less fuel costs for me *laughs*

Interviewer:  Anything else that you would like to discuss or introduce in this conversation?

Matthew:  I just would have to say I think that the work done by Raquel, particularly… Raquel is just an endless source of energy, how she keeps everybody in stocks, gets people in at short notice and things – she’s a great asset to the organisation.  But I think the volunteering app is very good as well.  Once you learn how to use it, the fact that it sends you an email that it reminds you when your shifts are; those kind of things make the actual process of showing up on the right day at the right time, and knowing when when you’re going to be working very easy.

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