My name is Alia. I have always had an interest in supporting women and girls affected by violence – when I was growing up it was clear that this is an issue that is so widespread and yet so suppressed. I began my career as a primary school teacher working with young children and enjoyed it greatly, but always felt that my true calling was in the VAWG sector. A friend of mine told me about Solace after her own volunteering experience there and so I kept my eye out for a volunteering vacancy I would be interested in.
I was fortunate to be selected to volunteer in the Solace Rape Crisis service that supports women and girls who have experienced any form of sexual violence at any time in their lives. I spent 10 weeks on the North London Rape Crisis helpline training programme which prepared me for the reality of manning the helpline. It was really comprehensive and taught me about key issues to be aware of such as rape myths, substance abuse, suicidal tendencies, self-care and current legislation. Completing the logbooks was not an easy task but receiving my certificate (OCN accreditation Level 3) was a huge achievement. It opened my doors to the sector and came with it great many opportunities. Through my volunteering position I was given the chance to apply for another accredited course with the Women & Girls Network which spanned over 6 months. I gained a Level 2 & 3 OCN in Counselling Skills with interpretation and an emphasis on supporting BME & refugee women.
I volunteered on the helpline for over 18 months and in that time decided that eventually I wanted to progress into a paid role within Solace, continuing with the Rape Crisis team. The role that most appealed to me was the role of an ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advocate) working with women who have survived sexual violence by providing advice, advocacy and ongoing specialist support. Volunteering helped me understand the complexities and challenges involved and gave me an in-depth insight into the realities of the role. I am pleased to say I was successful and have now been working as a qualified ISVA for seven months.
Volunteering for Solace was a life-changing experience for me on many levels. I developed self-awareness, regained my confidence, learnt new skills, ignited lost passions and have been able to give back to those who most needed my support. Whilst I have shed a tear or two along the way, there have been many joyous achievements through this journey which has been so rewarding and fulfilling. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about applying to volunteer to take a leap of faith – you never know where it might lead.
At Solace we couldn’t support over 16,000 women and children each year without the time, energy and compassion of our volunteers. Visit our volunteering page to learn more about current vacancies.