I started volunteering with the Fire & Rescue Service in 2014. I was new to Dorset, and wanted to meet new people and needed to find a way to fill to my days.
Unable to work full time due to ill health, the fire service provided me with various opportunities, such as attending events like Dorset County Show, and drill nights, which made me feel needed. I even got the opportunity to participate in a multi-agency training exercise at Bournemouth Airport.
In 2015, during a chat with the Volunteer Coordinator about various upcoming activities, the Prince’s Trust programme was mentioned. At the time, I was out of work, incredibly depressed and lacked confidence and self-esteem. With encouragement, I applied and attended the open day. After an interview, I was accepted onto the scheme.
That course changed my life. The staff provided me with a much-needed boost, helped me to gain the confidence to pursue job opportunities, and allowed me to make some serious and positive changes to my life.
We visited Dartmoor for a short residential trip, which helped me to work on interaction with others, teamwork and leadership, something that I struggled with due to severe anxiety. It was towards the end of the 12-week programme that I decided I would like to return to University. The Prince’s Trust team helped me to make the application and gave me the confidence that I could succeed.
In 2016, when Dorset Fire and Rescue Service merged with Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, I was invited by both the Volunteering Team and Prince’s Trust team to talk to others about my experiences. That day really allowed me to reflect on how far I have come with my fire service family, and how grateful I am to them for everything they have done for me.
Fast forward a few years and I am now in my final year at Southampton University, where I study Television Production. During my first year, I ran a research project on the fire service, which enabled me to attend several drill nights with my camera and I got to go out on a fire engine.
Whilst a lot of my time is taken up with coursework, I have recently been provided with an opportunity to use my knowledge within the fire service as a photography volunteer. Last year, I also volunteered with SafeWise in Weymouth, helping them to run the centre and manning reception when needed.
When I walked into the Service all those years ago, I never thought that my life would turn out the way it has. I was incredibly nervous, not in the best head space and wasn’t entirely sure how my new life was going to turn out in Dorset.
Thanks to the continued support of my fire service family, I now have the confidence in myself and in my abilities that I can be whoever I want to be and that I am capable of achieving great things.