June 1, 2017
Volunteers Week – Al’s story
Hi, I’m Al. I am 27 years old and originally from Germany. I lived in Manchester for almost 2 years.
MASH was my first time volunteering in the UK, but as a teenager and student in Germany I volunteered in youth groups and refugee support groups.
I first heard about MASH when Helen (the Fundraiser) came to my roller derby team Arcadia Roller Derby because my teammates had raised some money for MASH. A few months later, my housemate went to the “Women in Media” Conference in spring 2015, and on the back of the programme leaflet was an advertisement for MASH. After that I got in touch.
I originally volunteered at MASH because I was working on a short documentary film for my MA about volunteers at MASH, and later conducted research for my dissertation film project. Soon I realised that I really liked volunteering so I stayed even after finishing my studies. Volunteering with MASH gave me the feeling of not just living in Manchester, but being part of this amazing city and its diverse population, being part of a community.
Primarily I volunteered in the MASH Drop-In Centre, mostly on a Wednesday evening but if my schedule allowed me, sometimes in the afternoons too. Basically I do anything necessary to make the ladies who come in feel welcome and safe, by making a cuppa or having a chat … !
Furthermore I have helped out by making a short video for a MASH crowdfunding campaign.
Some days are tough, some stories you hear or things you experience in the Centre can be hard to process. And due to confidentiality, you cannot discuss everything openly with your partner or housemates at home. But after every session at MASH there is a de-brief, where anything from the session or beyond can be discussed with other volunteers and MASH staff. And I know that all other volunteers or staff always have an open ear if something needs to get off my chest, at any time!
I have grown so much in my understanding of the diversity of human life stories; and to see far beyond my own limited world. I’ve spoken to women who faced so much adversity and so many challenges in their lives, yet they stand tall and confident and strong and make the best of what life brings them every single day. Often when I get so stuck in my own life and my problems, I recall some of the MASH ladies, and their energy just gives me so much strength.
If you are thinking about volunteering with MASH – Do it! You have a lovely support from other volunteers and staff, you can learn so much every single session, and you will contribute to making Manchester a place where people care for each other even more!
If you are interested in volunteering at MASH we’d love to hear from you. We are particularly looking for people with language or cooking skills, or who can run informal art & crafts sessions with women.