Last year Tessa Watts described what she was learning from her first experience as a peer volunteer advocate with Dorset Macmillan Advocacy. Since then Tessa has supported several more advocacy partners but she has also continued to develop her skills with two other related roles. Tessa described her studies and her interest in health coaching at interview so when opportunities arose we ensured that Tessa heard about them. As a result Tessa is now a trained lay facilitator with the Macmillan HOPE course. HOPE (Helping to Overcome Problems Effectively) is a licensed programme developed by Coventry University and Macmillan Cancer Support to help people who have had/or have cancer to get on with their lives. More recently Tessa has begun a part time role at Help and Care as a Health Coach with My Health My Way which provides personalised support to people with long term conditions.
Through her initial link with us Tessa is now involved in three different approaches to self management; independent advocacy, group peer support and one to one coaching. Tessa says, ‘I decided to volunteer with Dorset Macmillan Advocacy because I believe I have the skills to support people during difficult times. When the coaching opportunity arose it felt like a very natural next step to use these skills so support people with long term health conditions.’
NHS Health Education England has a consultation open at the moment on a new volunteering strategy. It is aimed at developing the future workforce and focuses on bringing young people into Health and Social care. I think it’s a great idea and particularly like the emphasis on removing inequalities in volunteering but it did make me think of Tessa and how volunteering has been a way for her to kick-start a new career to which she brings her wealth of accumulated knowledge and experience. Tessa agreed, ‘I had no idea that volunteering would open up a new world for me. I am enjoying the work immensely and I feel like it does make a difference.’
Kathleen Gillett, Macmillan Project Coordinator, Dorset Macmillan Advocacy