Cathedral Volunteer Programme Changes Lives

Volition at Manchester Cathedral
04th June 2018

It was set up by Manchester Cathedral in 2012 as a simple volunteer programme to better represent the demographics of the city they served.

Now six years on, hundreds of long-term unemployed have benefited from the programme with its unique blend of job club meets volunteering.

Now, a national charity, Volition Community works with Jobcentre Plus and strategic partners including city centre retailers, Manchester Arndale, The Printworks and Harvey Nichols, to offer the long-term unemployed the skills and confidence they need to gain employment through a ten week course.

Volition is funded from a mixture of corporate giving and trusts, the course includes team-work, communication skills, confidence building, taster days, health and well-being – including helping with the bee-hives on top of the Cathedral and collecting the honey.

With a one-day college course, mock interviews, job club and job search facility, all Manchester Cathedral asks of each volunteer is to give half a day a week volunteering at the Cathedral or the Cenotaph.

Since 2012, it has seen 900 people through its programme, and between 40 to 50 per cent have secured work.

And for Charlene Bebbington – it has been a life changer.

At 32 years old, Charlene was stuck in a rut. Three kids, overweight, no confidence; Charlene had long given up on her love of drama, and her hopes and dreams of working with children.

It was the supervisor at the Job Centre who suggested she go to the Open Day at Manchester Cathedral and she was immediately inspired by the programme’s mix of college work, volunteering and mock interviews. She put her name down for an admin role.

The first day was spent helping her write her CV, and she was assigned a welcomer role to help with her self-confidence. The college courses started – brushing up on her maths and English. There was lots of work on interview techniques and slowly her confidence started to build.

Charlene’s mock interview was with the Hilton hotel in Manchester.

“It was the scariest thing I’d ever done, but I did it.. I answered all the questions. And I really surprised myself. It gave me more confidence to do more interviews.”

When the course finished in April, Charlene had not secured a job and continued to volunteer, helping with the bees in the hives on the Cathedral roof and making lots of cups of tea.  She began to be part of the team to help promote Volition – found herself on the other side of the table at Job Centre Plus encouraging people to sign up to the programme.

And then six months later, she got her job; in a café, in the Cathedral Visitor Centre. She was there for three and a half years and found herself managing the place just before she left to get married last summer.

After a stint on the Deli counter in Marks and Spencer’s, Charlene now has a permanent contract with the Emirates Cricket Ground working on the cleaning team – and she loves it.

Said Charlene:
“My life was in a downward spiral, they gave me back my life, and they gave my kids back their lives too.
“They create hard-working people, they made me want to work, they put me out there; just speaking to people instead of hiding away in front of daytime TV.
“They made me not be afraid to start something new. They encouraged me to get involved in life.
“They really do work miracles,” she said.

Anthony O’Connor, the director of Volition, said:
“It opens us up and has a physical impact on the city. We’re part of the story of the city. The wider mission of the church is bigger than ever; there is a clear distinction of who we are now,” he said.

“We use our traditional welcomers as mentors; many of them are older now and have had their children and are used to setting boundaries, making sure homework is sorted, and often these are the skills our volunteers need.

“And if at the end of the ten weeks, we have not moved them into work, we stay with them, supporting them.” he added.

Liverpool Cathedral now runs its own version of Volition called Micah Liverpool, and this July, Salford RC Cathedral will become the third cathedral to launch Volition.

Visit www.volitioncommunity.org for more information.