When Bernard suffered from depression, he turned to volunteering and now wants to share his story.
Volunteering with the Trust has changed my life and I want others to join in and change theirs too.Bernard
Six months ago, I suffered from severe depression. This left me unable to leave the house. I would turn my friends down when they invited me to go out with them. I used to look in the mirror and think 'Is this it? Is this all I am going to do with my life?'
Then, one day, my sister had an interview with the Canal & River Trust. I remembered reading an article in the newspaper about the impact of volunteering on wellbeing. So I decided to give it a go. I went to the centre in Rosegrove and met the team. I was super nervous, but they were really welcoming. We had some tea, they talked to me about the role, and then asked when I'd be free to start?
On my first day, I felt very anxious, but my manager was amazing. He has given me the strength to stick at it. Each time I feel down, he’s always there for me. 'It’s ok Bernard, you can do it' he says.
When I started, I was really shy, always the quiet one. Now I never stop making conversation, sharing jokes with other volunteers. In October this year, the Trust organised a wellbeing walk along the canal, and over 20 people came. In the past, I would have been really wary of attending an event like this. This time, it was completely different. My manager was really surprised when he heard everyone laughing, and, turning back, realised I’d been the one keeping everyone entertained. This would never have happened when I started. Volunteering has really boosted my confidence.
What I want to say to people is this: I used to have depression, I used to have anxiety and look at me now. You can do it.Bernard
I love seeing the impact I'm having on the local community. I have taken pictures of the canal before and after I started volunteering, and it’s amazing to see the difference I’ve helped to make. I love going to the river on my days off, and I often hear people say 'Wow, this looks amazing, somebody’s done a great job here’. This really makes it worth all the hard work. Volunteering, for me, this is for life. I want to do this forever.
My manager and I are also working on a project to create partnerships with local mental health organisations, so more people can benefit from volunteering with the Trust. I am incredibly passionate about it, I know what people are going through. Volunteering with the Trust has changed my life, and I want to share my story to encourage others to join and change theirs, too.
Last date edited: 20 February 2020