Newcastle Treatment and Recovery service volunteers share their stories

Posted: 17/06/20

During this difficult time, it’s more important than ever to recognise the work of volunteers. Our volunteers dedicate their time, energy and enthusiasm to help improve patient and carer experience and complement the work of our healthcare staff.

Newcastle Treatment and Recovery service (NTaR) is a dedicated integrated community drug and alcohol service between CNTW, Humankind and Changing Lives. It is for anyone in Newcastle experiencing problems with or affected by drugs and alcohol. Changing Lives manage the volunteering element of NTaR.

The volunteers who helps us may be from different ages and backgrounds but they have one common goal; they want to help people. In light of the positive impact and valuable contribution volunteers can make, some volunteers at NTaR have shared their stories.

Kris’s story
I had been self-medicating, taking drugs and drinking excessively since I was 13. I ended up on probation and I had to go to groups with Change Grow Live (CGL) as part of my Rehabilitation Activity Requirement (RAR) days. As I started to go, I realised I wanted to get off my medication. Prior to that I felt that I was a lost cause.

I had been volunteering on the Day Unit at Plummer Court since 2018 and have since volunteered at harm minimisation and with the SIB (Social Impact Bond: Rough Sleepers) team. My heart is still at Plummer working on the day unit. I know I was making a difference and doing something good, making a difference to people’s lives. Planting seeds about recovery to help change people’s worlds.

I also volunteer for the Recovery Walk and pushed for this to go ahead as I saw how it could make a difference to the recovery community in Newcastle. I went on the walk in Glasgow and it was inspirational. I was only a few months into recovery, still ill and it helped me in my own recovery and made me think that I can do this and change my ways.
Today, I am a lot more calm and chilled. Each day I wake up is a blessing. I am humble, have gratitude in myself. It took years for me to understand that. I used to set myself up to fail, now I give myself a pat on the back. I’ve changed my ways, I see my achievements.

Ian’s story
I’m in recovery from alcohol addiction and have been abstinent from alcohol for 35 months. When I became sober I was called back to do scaffolding and plastering work but I soon realised that I should have stuck to what I wanted which was to pursue my dream of helping others. I was in a position to do it so I made that phone call.

Before COVID-19 I volunteered at harm minimisation and as a SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) facilitator at Fenham Library. It’s nice to be able to give something back and to know that you are helping others. At harm min I help out with the needle exchange and check in on the person’s welfare to make sure they’re okay.

I love meeting different clients and working with everyone, it’s a really nice atmosphere.Since volunteering with Changing Lives I have realised that there is more to life then my past. It has given me a realisation of what it is like for some people. My next step is to study L3 in Counselling. I want to continue to help people. I want to make a difference, helping people to get their lives back and to learn more about drug use and mental health.

Sam’s story
I have had my own business as a mobile hairdresser for almost a decade. I love connecting with my clients. The rapport I have built over the years, has helped me recognise the many obstacles people face in today’s society. I am a naturally caring individual and my passion to help people has encouraged my career move.

I started working with Changing Lives to gain experience whilst on my journey into higher education. I am currently working in the drug and alcohol services in the day unit, offering weekly support to individuals in recovery. I quickly recognised that financial issues are a potential result of addiction and I wanted to help. I have created a display board in the unit to raise awareness of my support and offered an appointment system so all can benefit from my knowledge.

I recently assisted a homeless individual achieve financial independence by helping to obtain their first bank account in 10 years. My role within the day unit has helped me gain an understanding of why people can face addictions in life. It most definitely can be challenging but I find it so rewarding to assist and empower individuals going through difficult times.

I enjoy my position at the day unit so much I intend on continuing my volunteering role throughout my social work degree for the next 3 years.

Carol’s story
I used to work as an administrator for student accommodation. I am now retired and wanted to continue making a difference to people’s lives. I have been actively involved in the recovery community for quite some time, through being an active member of the Newcastle Service User Carer Forum and volunteering my time with experts by experience.

I started volunteering on the day unit at Plummer Court in February of this year. I absolutely love seeing clients getting well and turning up week after week even if they are struggling. I offer my support to clients mainly by having chats, putting them at ease and showing kindness. I also signpost them to different recovery groups and answer any questions that they have to the best of my ability.

I absolutely love volunteering with Changing Lives and find it extremely rewarding, and would recommend it to anyone. I’ve learned so much more about addiction, especially the clinical side as opposed to the carer side. I have nothing but respect towards the staff and clients on the day unit and couldn’t ask for a better working environment.
I’m looking forward to the possibility of new opportunities and seeing clients again and making sure that they’re well.