Volunteer Employability Programme is changing lives, and applications are open

Unemployment and poverty are among the biggest factors that may impact an individual’s health – and we know there are significant health inequalities affecting the patient population in north west London. To help address this challenge, Imperial Health Charity has welcomed dozens of volunteers onto its new Employability Programme, which is designed to help disadvantaged people from central and northwest London progress into roles in the NHS.

The 10-week programme supports people to overcome barriers to work or education by gaining valuable experience through hospital volunteering and support with confidence building, CV writing, job applications and interview skills. Sherina was one of the first people to take part in the programme. Here, she shares her personal story.

Before I started the programme, my family and I had just moved to the area and were starting from nothing. We had lived in temporary accommodation for a long time and abruptly moved to permanent housing. The house was empty when we arrived – there was no furniture, a bare floor with no carpet, and no cooker, fridge or microwave.

I applied for Universal Credit and with my first payment I managed to buy a bed for my girls so they wouldn’t have to sleep on the floor. I also bought a small microwave to use for cooking. It was a very difficult time, and there were days when I didn’t know where the next meal would come from. I didn’t know who I was as a mother, and I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I had lost hope, and I was worried about finding work and how to manage this with my kids.

One day I had an appointment at St Mary’s Hospital. As I was walking along Praed Street, I saw a banner promoting volunteering opportunities and I took a picture of it. I said to myself, I need to come out of the house – even if it’s just to volunteer. So I went to the Imperial Health Charity website and completed the online form. My family has a personal connection to the hospital. The emergency team saved my son’s eyesight in 2019 after he was attacked by a gang on his way home from school. I got the call that he was being taken to St Mary’s and when I got there I found that the lower and upper sockets of his left eye were shattered. He was treated by the emergency team at St Mary’s, then transferred to the Western Eye Hospital and Northwick Park Hospital to receive further treatment.

When I came back to the hospital to volunteer last year, I didn’t think I would come out with a job. I mentioned that I had experience in social care and the charity team suggested I join the Employability Programme. I really appreciated the help. All the training I attended and the other volunteers I met were so helpful. They guided me through job roles and gave me the confidence I needed to apply. Now I’m really proud to be working as a Healthcare Assistant at St Mary’s.

Life is better now. Before, I didn’t know where to start. Now I work, I can pay my rent and buy my family food. Through my first few paychecks, I’ve bought a fridge and found someone to do the flooring. They did the girls’ room first and laid tiles in the bathroom. More recently they’ve laid flooring in the living room and my son’s room. I’ve also managed to buy my son a mattress and myself a folding bed, so we don’t have to sleep on the floor. There are lots of opportunities to learn and develop in the NHS.

I’ve now finished my Care Certificate and I’m waiting to do my functional skills. I’ve also spoken to the team who have said they’ll connect me with an educator to support my development. I really like my job too. It keeps me on the go and, at the end of the day, I feel like I’ve come to work and helped make someone happy. Taking part in the programme has put a smile on my face again. I would encourage anyone in my position to apply. It gives you all the opportunities you need to succeed. I encouraged my son to join the programme and he will be taking part this spring.

Applications are now open for the next cohort of the Volunteer Employability Programme which will start on Monday 22 April.

Apply now.