Carer to Career – Volunteering as a Way Back into Work

Our Community and Events Manager Hilary Long first joined us as a volunteer in 2016. Hilary left the British Army over 17 years ago to look after her four children, two of whom have additional needs. From a full-on career Hilary became a full-time carer, and found her own ambitions and mental health taking a back seat. Today, Hilary has transformed her life, managing to balance looking after her children with working part-time. Her journey is an inspiration to us all.

“After leaving the Army in 2000 I was lucky enough to stay at home with my four children. My husband is still in the Army and our youngest two sons have additional needs. We moved every two or three years- living in twenty-one houses in twenty-four years! My youngest son has extreme separation anxiety and has found going to school a real challenge. As well as constantly moving I have always been caring for them. With an endless stream of appointments at hospitals and clinics, no week was the same. It was a predictably unpredictable existence. I was always on call to drop everything and respond.

I did manage to be self-employed with a small greetings cards business that was flexible and fitted around the family, but even that suffered, and eventually turned into more of a hobby than a job. Last year, however, we had a break-through. My son was finally able to go to school and was at last enjoying it. It meant that I could think about working again.

Small steps were needed. I first started volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Society, singing for the Brain Group at the Peggy Dodd Centre. With the help of an Employment Support Officer at the Bath Carers Centre I wrote my CV. Then one Sunday, a notice in my Church’s weekly newsletter caught my attention. It was for a volunteer post with Genesis Trust. It seemed like the perfect opportunity; I could volunteer in a meaningful way and test how ‘working’ would work practically for me.

The sky didn’t fall down at home and it was wonderful to be working at a level that was both interesting and stimulating. I was using my skills as an Army officer, but also from my life as a mother and a carer. I really gave my time and enthusiasm to Genesis, and in return I hugely benefitted from the experience, training and support. Today I call it my ‘returnship’; a bridge back to senior roles for experienced professional who have taken an extended career break.

Eventually, a post as Community and Events Fundraiser became available at Genesis Trust. And this is where I am now, as a Manager. It has been a great success for me, and I would definitely recommend volunteering as a way to get back into work. I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to figure out when the time was right to finally walk over that bridge.”

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