Meet our Volunteer – Chris’s Story

How long have you been volunteering at The Brick?
 Just over five years.

 What is your volunteer role(s)?
I work mainly in Crisis Intervention, with occasional forays into simple building maintenance and outreach for the Brick in local schools whenever I am asked to do so. At the Brick I interview individuals who may be new to the Brick or have a medium to long-term relationship with us. I seek to identify and respond appropriately to the needs of these people either by referral to others or by direct intervention on their behalf.

All of this is within the framework whereby the individuals are aware of what I or my colleagues are seeking to do, approve of the action and agree to it. This may be very wide-ranging work, from filling in forms to making telephone calls or bidding for properties online and many other bits of fact-finding and it involves a large group of contacts, such as the Local Authority, charities, private companies, landlords and so on and on.

What do you feel is the best bit of your volunteer role?
The work I do is only really good when I am able to do something, however small, to advance the case of the individual seeking support and move them towards a satisfactory outcome for them.

Since I am a part-timer, I will often only see the same individual once or twice and even those I have got to know by frequent contact have generally been over a very long period of time.

I sometimes think of my role as being like a square on a ‘Snakes and Ladders’ board that the individual lands on. Hopefully I shall turn out to be a rung of a ladder rather than the head of a snake. I feel pleased when an individual is able to thank me for doing something that they appreciate…

Describe a memorable event or anecdote in your time as a volunteer at The Brick that makes you feel good about being part of this organisation.
Often, I have been able to perform a task for someone that was easy for me to do but appeared impossible for them to do themselves.

On one occasion a gentleman I had met before came in with several letters from a firm of debt collectors. The money he allegedly owed related to energy bills that I soon discovered he could not possibly owe as he was on a prepayment metered supply. It was pretty easy for me to talk to the energy company, get them to acknowledge their mistake and get them to call off the debt collectors. I also managed to get them to pay him £50 compensation for the trouble they had put him to. He was delighted and I was happy for him. Sadly, this kind of completion doesn’t happen very often.

On a more general note I look back with pleasure on the number of volunteers who have ‘shadowed’ me and who have gone on to work independently.

What are your aspirations for the future within The Brick and in the wider world?
I am happy to continue to work as a volunteer in Crisis Intervention. I hope that a new crop of volunteers will be found to continue the work and that they will be recognised as being as much members of staff of the Brick as anyone with a paid contract.

As far as the ‘wider world’ is concerned I very much hope that the general public will wake up to the shocking way in which poorer members of society are being treated in our country and will finally do something about it. We live in very difficult times for people at the bottom ‘of the heap’ and I long for a kinder and more tolerant society.

A word of encouragement for anyone considering joining The Brick as a volunteer.
Well I always tell volunteers who shadow me in Crisis Intervention, “Don’t panic”, especially when they have observed the occasional interview with an individual with complex needs and, perhaps, a negative or hostile attitude towards those attempting to help them. I also reassure  them that there is a lot to learn and they shouldn’t expect to have to know everything in five minutes. I remind them that, if they don’t know the answer, there are always colleagues around who do and they will be there to help.

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The Brick Project offers a huge range of services to people who are homeless, in poverty or facing debt crisis. This includes Crisis Intervention, Hospital to Home, Asset Coaching and Wigan’s largest Foodbank. As its name suggests, it provides a safe, solid building block for people in crisis to begin rebuilding their lives.
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The Brick Shop is a charity shop selling donated goods, often to people on low incomes. The shop gives clothes free of charge to people referred by Wigan Council. The shop is one of the main hubs within its community.

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The Brick Works offers training to increase the employment opportunities for people who are unemployed for a variety of reasons. This may include homelessness or recently housed people referred.

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The Brick Giving aims to put an end to poverty and homelessness in Wigan and Leigh. Our #BrickbyBrick campaign is working to raise £175,000 to purchase The Brick Works and make sure no one in our community is left behind.

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The Brick Re-Use has been set up to help educate people in the Wigan Borough about recycling and re-use. We also turn unwanted goods into lovingly restored furniture for families in need.