We're celebrating International Volunteer Day 2017 today, and taking the opportunity to say a huge thank you to our wonderful volunteers. Without their support, we wouldn't be able to change the lives of over 21,000 people each year across the country. This is Toby's story. Toby* has been volunteering with Changing Lives since June 2017.

I started volunteering around June after graduating from rehab. As a recovering addict with a year clean and sober I wanted to use my lived experience and passion for recovery to help others in their journey and encourage them in recovery. I also wanted to learn new skills and gain experience as well as networking with the community and meeting new people.

When I volunteer with Changing Lives I usually facilitate groups and cover Reception around this. On a Friday for example I facilitate the Tea and Toast, the Check Out Group, the Mindfulness group, and finally Art Therapy, with reception cover in between these groups.

I wanted to use my lived experience and passion for recovery to help others in their journey and encourage them in recovery. I also wanted to learn new skills and gain experience as well as networking with the community and meeting new people.

On my days off I usually volunteer with external organisations and often attend AA meetings as well as having some leisure time such as bike riding, writing poetry, and undergoing education such as doing my NVQ Level 2 Health and Social Care.

Through my volunteering role with Changing Lives, I’ve learned loads of skills that will help me in the future, such as: administration skills (organisation, photocopying, and phone calls); communication skills (public speaking); networking skills; and delivering Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

I believe that with all the skills and experience I’ve gained, along with the motivation I carry, employment opportunities will come my way; especially with the support of the staff at Changing Lives.

I really enjoy seeing people make progress in their recovery journey, and as a volunteer for Changing Lives, I’m constantly meeting new people and networking in the community.

It’s really rewarding to give something back to the community and use my lived experience in a positive way.

I would recommend anyone to volunteer with Changing Lives, as it is a great and fun experience, with a lot of opportunities offered to progress in life. I would also suggest this for meeting genuine people and constantly growing, learning and always developing new skills.

Toby is a life-changer. 

*names changed and stock photography used for anonymity