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Volunteering to feel at home

Where I grew up, in the Soviet Union, ‘volunteering’ was a word we hated. It wasn’t voluntary but more like forced labour — such as mandatory unpaid work on collective farms harvesting potatoes.

When I came to Britain in 2015 with my family, language and cultural differences meant a sense of isolation and difficulty in getting work. I tried joining various clubs and learned that volunteering was something quite different from what I knew. It could be varied, fun, a force for good and above all optional.

Photograph of Anna.

I started by contacting the Thornbury Volunteer Centre to see if there was some way I might make use of my languages. They put an advert in the local paper and I ended up volunteering in three very different situations — interpreting and translating for a school in Bradley Stoke, helping at a social club for adults with learning disabilities in Alveston and serving lunch at a luncheon club in Thornbury.

This did wonders for my confidence. My English improved and I began to feel part of the local community. Volunteering led to paid work and I stopped volunteering for a while but then in May 2019 I gained some spare time and could start again.

I called back into the Volunteer Centre. They offered me a role as a volunteer co-ordinator. This involves me in contacting organisations via phone and email and updating the details we have on file. I publish new volunteer opportunities on the national volunteering database and the Centre’s website and maintain the records. This has helped me become more confident on the telephone and develop a more colloquial way of speaking. The people I work with are very friendly and make me part of the team.

I’m fully part of Thornbury society these days. It was volunteering that did it.

News & information

Volunteers’ Week 2024

Discover what volunteers do and how you can join in.

Spring sale

Our Spring Sale on 27 April raised more than £250 for Centre funds.

Sources of Help booklet

Our invaluable guide to organisations that can help you in need is available online.

Discover your perfect volunteering opportunity

Contribute your time and skills to the local community.

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We post details of new volunteering opportunities on and local groups.

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Thornbury Volunteer Centre is a registered charity, number 1180775. The Town Hall, 35 High Street, Thornbury, BS35 2AR. Tel: 01454 413392. Hours: Mon-Fri 10:30-12.00. This site © Thornbury Volunteer Centre. Site design by Michael Quinion. Page last updated 16 Aug. 2019.