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Flexibility, Variety and Impact – Volunteering

Young people in red Shelter t-shirts cheer and wave flags
Sarah Latto
Written by Sarah Latto

Throughout September we are recruiting volunteers for a range of roles. One of our Community Volunteers, Sayana, shares what motivated her to volunteer, and some of the experiences she has had so far!  

On several occasions during my time as a student, and early on in my career, I found myself living in cold, damp, single glazed flat-shares. I was repeatedly shocked and disappointed at the poor quality of private-let housing across Edinburgh, and yet, I considered myself lucky as I had a place to live.  

After graduating, I had the opportunity to work supporting people living in the most deprived communities in Scotland, which made me question several aspects of housing. One thought was prevailing in my mind: How could it be that in a developed country in the 21st-century individuals and families can be forced to live in such appalling and insecure conditions where a lack of rights often leads to homelessness.  

Considering all of those people in Scotland living in insecure tenancies, I started to think about how land is distributed, and about the relationship between land ownership and the right to a secure home. I became more interested in tenants’ rights when I faced the possibility of losing my home after becoming ill, changing jobs and splitting up with my partner. I felt that having access to a good home, stability, security and being able to make plans for the future were luxuries that many people take for granted. Therefore, I wanted to get involved with a project or a charity that would go beyond and would aim at changing the law, influencing policies, and try to tackle the root causes of homelessness, and then I found Shelter Scotland. 

When I came across the Community Volunteer post, I was very excited, I felt that it was flexible and provided an opportunity to campaign and fundraise in different contexts and events. At a personal level, I felt that volunteering for Shelter Scotland connected me with some values that are very important to me. One of my first events was Shelter Scotland’s fashion show and I got a chance to welcome guests and learn about the Shelter Scotland shops and donations. I learned that Christmas is a big time for fundraising so I was keen to join collections at my local supermarket. Street collections go by much quicker than you would think! I have met some lovely volunteers and members of staff during collections and they have always made me feel supported and welcome.  

I had the chance to attend Shelter Scotland’s 50th-anniversary event, where I had the chance to hear from some amazing speakers and I learned so much about Shelter Scotland’s history. At the 2019 Volunteer Gathering, I had an opportunity to put a face to the names of some of Shelter Scotland’s staff that I had been in contact with for months. I spent time with volunteers from very different areas and it was great to hear about the strategy of the organisation. My latest street collection was at Waverley Station, it was a first for Shelter Scotland’s volunteers so it was an interesting experience, and we certainly had a lot of fun. 

Whenever I think about the impact that I have made since I started volunteering, I find it difficult to recognise my efforts. I always feel that I could do more. However, I think that as a Community Volunteer I am off to a great start. I have raised money and raised awareness about the amazing work of Shelter Scotland but most importantly, I hope that my hours will contribute to changing the reality of housing across Scotland. 

Together we can defend the right to a home. For more information about volunteering with us, visit www.shelterscotland.org/volunteer