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Volunteers week

Volunteer stories

If you had told me 3 years ago everything that I would accomplish as a result of Open Arts I would probably have laughed at you! What I have done during my time with Open Arts would have seemed impossible, inconceivable even. But the fact remains that I have done them. I have had 2 day trips to London, I have done Village Green twice, I have taken responsibility for being ‘in charge’ of the studio on a Wednesday afternoon (the volunteer led day), I have volunteered on 5 Digital Art courses at Metal (and am currently doing a sixth), I have helped set up Art Trails, I have put together slideshows for exhibition at the Beecroft Art Gallery, I have… the list just goes on and on.


Three years ago this would never have been possible. I was lost. Consumed by my illness. I could barely talk to anybody, I never made eye contact, my anxiety and depression were overwhelming. Open Arts has given me back some control over my life and I will be forever grateful to everyone involved. When I think how close I was to turning round and coming home instead of walking in that first day of the Art course… But right from the start Jo Keay did everything in her power to put me at ease, to reassure me. She and her volunteers gave me support, they gave me the confidence to have a go. And from there I have just gone from strength to strength. I am now unrecognisable from the person that I was that first day. People that were on the course with me have commented on how different I am now.


Yes, I still have bad days. I still struggle, especially with social situations, but the difference in me is amazing. And I owe it all to Open Arts. They have given me a little confidence in my own abilities, they have given me everything. I know it sounds melodramatic but I honestly believe that Open Arts has given me my life back. And I can never thank them enough. Getting involved with Open Arts is the best thing I have ever done and I think it is so sad that some people are denied the opportunity to get involved with Open Arts because of lack of funding.

Open Arts volunteer

Prior to volunteering I worked full time, shift work within Health and Social Care for 17 years both within the NHS (SEPT then EPUT) as a Senior Support Worker working within various wards at Runwell and Rochford Hospitals.

I now only volunteer with EPUT and Trust Links, a local Mental Health Charity who support people living with various mental health conditions.

I decided to become a volunteer to 'keep my brain busy' and chose opportunities that I enjoy and have experience in. 

I have found all my opportunities very rewarding, as it has enabled me to meet various people, help with social skills, learn new skills.

I would encourage people to try volunteering to enhance their skills, to improve their well being and social skills, meet new people, and to help with their communities.

In EPUT I have volunteered at Clifton Lodge, Beech Ward at Rochford Hospital.

I plan ahead my volunteering availability as I tend now too have 'busy weeks', 

I am the only person in my family who volunteers as my parents are both retired and my younger sister is a Registered Care Manager with a Local Care Business.

Dean M, EPUT volunteer

‘Open Arts is a fantastic organisation and every day I feel honoured and privileged to be able to volunteer with them.

Open Arts has supported me through some tough times this year, and I am extremely grateful to Jo and Sue for all their help and assistance. Without their backup and encouragement, I don’t think I would have come through these times as I have.

My time with Open Arts has increased my confidence dramatically. My social skills continue to improve, and I am increasingly able to talk with strangers and get on with new groups of people.

Becoming involved with Open Arts is the best thing that has ever happened to me. With their support I hope to continue to grow as a person. I used to say that I wanted to get back to being the person I was before my illness, but not anymore – Open Arts has inspired me to want to become a new and improved version of myself and I hope that I am able to live up to that. Thank you Open Arts!’

"Open Arts is very supportive of its volunteers. Jo Keay and her studio managers always have time for people.

Volunteers are encouraged to take an active role in Open Arts, from setting up exhibitions to helping to run workshops, from supporting the studio managers to putting together presentations and slideshows. And every step of the way you feel supported and valued. You feel a part of something.

Open Arts has provided me with a safe environment in which to volunteer and to gradually become more comfortable with taking on responsibilities and with helping others.

Nothing is ever too much bother for Jo, and this caring, helpful attitude has fostered a similar attitude in all involved with Open Arts.

In short Open Arts has helped its volunteers by always being there for them."

Staff messages

"I am continually blown away by the dedication, experience and value that our volunteers bring to services. I work closely with a number of volunteers who make my working life a joy! Volunteers provide invaluable insights and experience that continually informs and enhances our services, as well as supporting our individual learning and development as professionals."

Bryony Dale
Service User Network Manager & Facilitator
Specialist Personality Disorder and Complex Needs Team



‘It is a real pleasure to work with volunteers and very humbling to know that there are people out there that continue to want to help others, (often complete strangers) every day.’

‘Volunteers are integral to the delivery of care at EPUT’

Amy Poole
Head of Patient Experience and Volunteers

“Volunteers input is vital to ensure we learn from their lived experience & hear the patient story. Their input keeps the focus of our care on compassion & empathy”

Heidi Cox
Senior Student Education Facilitator for Allied Health Professions (AHP) - Clinical Placement & Capacity Expansion Lead

“Our team of volunteer service users and carers play an integral role in planning, delivering and evaluating the training delivered within the Trust. In particular with the Buddy Scheme, whereby they help influence our future clinicians, by sharing their experiences with students, to encourage empathy and compassion, to look beyond ‘the patient’ and see the person and to be better able to deliver high quality care. Their commitment, passion and generosity has enabled the scheme to continue to grow, even in the last two years. The team now work with over 200 students each year across six different disciplines and it’s a privilege to work alongside them. Thank you to everyone involved.”

Jay Thornton
Digital Training Development Lead (EPUT Buddy Scheme)


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