Volunteering is sometimes seen as a throwaway gesture by companies and individuals – but this last fortnight has proven how wrong that misconception is.
My fiancé Rob and I have sat and watched DIY SOS for years and, while sitting there wiping tears from our eyes, we have often said if it’s ever local we’d love to get involved.
When we heard the show was coming to Blackburn to create a homeless shelter for young people for the charity Nightsafe, I immediately got in touch. I didn’t have a trade and I wasn’t a skilled tradesperson – I work in PR! What did I know about building sites? But I was willing to lift stuff, shift stuff and simply be an extra pair of hands.
I have to admit that being issued with a hard hat and high vis vest on day one felt a little strange, but by the end of day one the volunteers wore them with pride. It was like a uniform to say we’re a part of this bigger project that would help provide vulnerable young people with shelter and support.
By day two, the hats were individualised with nicknames, and there were plenty of hugs and lots of banter.
Although the nine-day project was extended as timescales had slipped and the enormity of the project took hold, the morale at the site remined high.
Now don’t get me wrong, it was hard work. I have never moved so many tonnes of gravel, bags of plaster or boxes of tiles. But I wouldn’t change a single minute.
This project has proven that a positive mindset, passion and persistence can truly motivate people to achieve the unimaginable.
It was extraordinary to see a collection of people who live hundreds of miles apart sacrificing work, time with their families and pay to be part of something bigger.
I have never truly felt community spirit like this. You can see it. You can feel it. Everyone was there for the same reason – not to get on TV, but to help those less fortunate than themselves.
Some volunteers had benefited from the services Nightsafe offers, some people live in the neighbourhood, and others simply lent a hand just because they were able to.
I have learnt more about myself in the last fortnight than I have in the last 10 years. I have developed new skills, met hundreds of new friends and I have been a small cog in a much larger machine.
We have achieved the impossible and it has been truly life changing for us, and also for the young people who will benefit from the building.