Two years ago, while out of work due to mental health problems,
Susan McKenzie decided she wanted to give back to her community.
Susan was suffering from bad anxiety, which was limiting her life.
But she was determined to start getting involved with the community again.
Living not too far from the BeFriends offices in Dundee, she worked up the courage to ask if they needed any more volunteers.
The charity was only too glad to have an extra set of hands and Susan hasn’t looked back since.
“Prior to this I wasn’t in work,” Susan said.
“I was suffering from bad anxiety and I was trying to get through that.
“This has helped me come out of my shell and be more self confident, be more aware of what I’m saying and how I conduct myself and how I listen to other people as well.
“I think it’s really beneficial to both of us.”
BeFriends links local volunteers with vulnerable young people aged 16 to 25, to offer support and engagement.
Being there for someone else
The volunteers and their friends meet up on a one-to-one basis to focus on the mental wellbeing of the young person.
Susan said: “I’ve been doing it the last two years and have a young person that I meet up with every week or every two weeks and we just spend time together.
“So we’ll go out for tea, or hot chocolate and go out to McDonald’s or just go for a walk around the town or go to the cinema – anything she really wants to do.
“It’s a chance for her to have somebody else to talk to, just as a friend.
“I’ve not to influence her in any way or anything like that. But it just gives somebody for her to talk to and listen to.”
Susan said that while the experience helps her young friend, she also gets a lot out of it herself.
Big kid at heart
“It’s been a really good experience,” she said.
“I’m really lucky because she’s a dead bubbly wee girl.
“Obviously the children that need the BeFrienders can really vary with what they actually need it for.
“It could be because they’re being bullied in school, or come from a broken home, or anything like that.
“But I’m really lucky, she’s a really good girl and we get on really, really well.
“She tells me everything and I listen to everything she’s got to say.
“I’m quite a big kid at heart myself, so we get on quite well that way.”
She added that the volunteer work improved her self confidence so much, she started volunteering at other places across Dundee.
“I started in at the Ninewells gift shop as a volunteer,” Susan said.
“And then went from that to also volunteering at the Ninewells vaccination centre.
“Now, I work at the Caird Hall vaccination centre. I feel like BeFriends really gave me that push I needed.”
Susan hopes that more people will be encouraged to get out and volunteer, saying: “It makes you feel good.
“Yes, you’re giving something back to people who maybe don’t have much. But you get so much out of it.
“It’s really nice for you and even better for those you’re helping.”
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