Volunteers' week: Jess Foord

Student Jess Foord admits she was daunted by the prospect of volunteering at homeless charity Opendoors in Devizes but six months on she enjoys it so much she never wants to leave.

Jess, who is due to start a Master’s degree in music therapy later this year, wanted to do some volunteering and came across Opendoors online.

“I was quite daunted when I first went in,” she said, “but the other volunteers are so welcome and the guests at Opendoors are so nice and friendly. They go against every stereotype, they are not scary they are just people that need help and to me they are equals.”

She works every Wednesday morning at the charity’s shelter in Devizes, mostly on the reception desk greeting guests when they arrive. She also organises the clothing store where guests can get clean clothes including underwear, jumpers and sleeping bags.

Sometimes she also helps in the kitchen, serving hot breakfasts.

“It can be very busy,” she said, “when the weather is good it can be quiet because the guests are out and about but when the weather is grotty we can get about 30 people in. They arrive in dribs and drabs but it can be quite hectic.”

She enjoys getting to know the guests and finds that understanding the reasons they have for sleeping rough is the key to understanding them. “Once you get to know their story you get to understand them more and you understand more about what makes someone decide to become homeless,” she said.

“When you see how giving someone a pair of shoes or a jumper puts a smile on their face it is amazing and when you remember their name you see how much pleasure they get from that. When they first arrive, if you remember a problem they told you about last time and you ask how they are getting on with it, their face lights up because you have remembered them. That is very rewarding.”

She said she has no regrets about signing up and would urge anyone to do what she has. “It has been an amazing experience for me. I just love it here and when it is time to go home I just want to stay forever,” she said.

“When I leave here I am in a happy mood, it is not depressing at all. If you do something that helps someone you feel very fulfilled. If anyone was thinking about any kind of volunteering I’d say ‘do it, you’ve got nothing to lose. If you can give up bits of your time you can really help a charity and you will get so much out of it.”

The Wiltshire Community Foundation has supported Opendoors Devizes with funding. For more information about Devizes Opendoors go to their website.

Volunteers Week, which runs until June 7th , celebrates the work and dedication of the millions of people who give up their time to help others. Hundreds of events will be taking place across the country to mark Volunteers' Week. The annual campaign, which was established in 1984, recognises the contribution volunteers make to our communities every day.

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