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Volunteers’ Week Stories

Why giving time for free has made life all the richer for Jane

Jane Robb, VolunteerJane Robb from Whitehead (originally Carrickfergus) has been volunteering for over 40 years and has no plans to stop any time soon. In the run up to Volunteers’ Week (3rd – 9th June),  Jane is one of the many volunteers encouraging others in Northern Ireland to ‘dip their toe in and give volunteering a go’.

Back in the 1980s, Jane started volunteering with the then Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Carrickfergus.  This experience sparked a lifelong interest in supporting organisations and causes that she felt passionate about, the impact of which she says has been life changing.

“I honestly can’t describe what a big part of my life volunteering is,” said Jane Robb.  “People think it’s a completely selfless thing to do but for me, I have gained so much!

“For instance, my early volunteering roles gave me a great chance to get some training, meet new people and learn new skills.  It actually helped me get a job because the experience was so relevant and my career took off from there.

“After a period of illness, volunteering was what helped me get back on my feet. It gave me structure to life and the confidence I needed to apply for work again.

“Then, when I moved to Whitehead five years ago, volunteering helped me meet new people in the area, helping me socialise and get behind things that enhance life in the town.”

Jane has been involved with community events in Whitehead like the Victorian Street Fair, the Easter Road Race and the Summer Festival.  She has helped champion support for charity Women’s Aid through fundraising events in the town.

Clearly having passed her love of community to her daughter Lee, Jane has been involved with several of Lee’s ventures, including The Repair Café in Belfast and its new branch in Whitehead; The Talking Shop in Carrickfergus through its many community  productions; and the Carrickfergus community greengrocers, where Jane regularly takes shifts.

Jane has also spent a lot of time volunteering within the cultural and arts sector in recent years, having been a regular volunteer for organisations like The MAC in Belfast, the Ulster Museum, University of Atypical, Thrive, Arts Ekta and the Belfast International Arts Festival.

Speaking about Jane’s contribution to volunteering, Wenda Gray of Volunteer Now said:

“Jane is an incredible example of how volunteering changes lives. Not only has she given so much for her community and local causes, she has also enjoyed so many brilliant experiences thanks to being a volunteer.

“Volunteering has become a way of life for Jane. Whilst we know not everyone can give a lot of time, we believe that every hour counts and as we gear up to celebrate Volunteers’ Week, we really hope that people will take inspiration from Jane’s amazing story and visit our website to find out what opportunities might interest them. Hopefully it will start a habit that lasts a lifetime,” Wenda said.

For anyone considering becoming a volunteer, Jane has the following advice:

“Find opportunities that you’re interested in or have a passion about. Volunteer Now have a load of different opportunities you can explore. If you have an interest, you will learn even more through volunteering and, even if you can just give an hour every so often, it all helps.

Volunteers Week purple star“You’ll be learning, keeping your brain active, experiencing amazing things and if you’re interested in adding to your CV, volunteering will stand you in good stead.  I’ve gained more than I could ever imagine from being a volunteer. Dip your toe in and give volunteering a go – I think you’ll never look back.”

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