Summer, our Volunteer Coordinator, sat down with Helen to chat about her experience of being a volunteer with Changes. Helen also shared with us a poem inspired by a fellow Changes member.

On Volunteers Week 2024,  we would love to thank each and every one of our volunteer team, Changes wouldn’t be able to happen without you.

How did you find out about changes and how did you become a volunteer? 

‘I moved to Bristol in April of 2021, from Buckinghamshire. I am a Counsellor, but working online from home in a new city was very isolating. The move also coincided with the loss of three close and very important people to me. I found this to be a difficult and dark time. 

I wanted to do something in the community in Bristol, and Changes had the right feel. Even the name of the charity was a comfort to me. 

I went along to the In person training and started as a Befriender and Walk and Talk volunteer. Walk and Talk was so beneficial, locating new parts of  Bristol helped me feel more familiar with the city and the opportunity to meet people and navigate a new place helped me feel less isolated and more integrated.

Now I’m also a weekly Peer Support Group Facilitator at the Bedminster group.’

What do you like about volunteering with Changes?

‘I love the mutual and balanced aspect of Changes. We are all part of the same thing, there is no hierarchy. It’s very different to working as a counsellor, its freed me up more and even improved my counselling practice, as I feel more authentic.

I have volunteered in many other places but there has always been a bit of a hierarchy, while at Changes if feels more equal. It is an exceptional place. 

I can always get in touch with the Changes team. As a facilitator and befriender you are sometimes in at the deep end so it can be tricky, but there is always someone on the end of the phone if needed. It feels reassuring to have that security and support. 

As volunteers we also have reflective practice with other volunteers and staff members. The equality, openness and respect is there too, which is a really healing quality about the charity’ 

Tell us about your experience of the peer support groups

‘The first time I sat down in a group I thought ‘Oh no, I have to say something now’ , but then it was fine. Having the facilitators share is what makes the group work, that’s the bit that’s so empowering for the members, we are all members, in it together. No one is exempt, low mental health doesn’t discriminate. 

In the peer support groups there are no experts in the room, no one tells anyone what you should do. The equality and balance of the group has had the biggest impact on me. Communicating in this supportive way has really helped me in my day to day life.  It encourages kindness and caring, and this is how I try to go about my life now. 

The Group members are inspirational. One member spoke about writing poetry after hearing voices, and then performing these at Open Mic nights. This inspired me to write my own poem about my dark time and loneliness. It’s about conversations overheard, which I went on to perform at an Open Mic night in Bristol last February.  

Recently, the group I help facilitate closed for 2 weeks while it relocated. I missed it so much. The group means so much to me that I had to visit the building just to say goodbye. Our evenings there have been so restorative and nourishing. The feeling of solidarity with members, that reliable community feeling is so special. 

Sharing our stories, and being heard unites people. The honesty, genuineness, sharing good and bad weeks, brings us together and reduces the isolation. We leave feeling lighter than when we arrived.’  

What would you say to someone who is thinking about becoming a volunteer

‘Volunteering has enabled me to give something back, to be part of something in Bristol. It’s a chance to challenge yourself and be part of something bigger than yourself. 

And Changes has given back to me, inspired me, helped and still helps me through my difficult times. It has created ripples and spin offs in my life, it’s impacted on my wellbeing, my work and my creativity. I feel so grateful. 

I would recommend Changes Bristol to people who want to volunteer or become a member.’


Thank you Helen for everything you bring to Changes. Like all of our volunteers your unique perspective is so valuable, thank you for your time, care and passion for what we do together.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, you can find out more here 

Read below Helens poem:

Catching bits of conversations

We arrived in Spring.
Leaping into the new, unfamiliar, strange
But all that became familiar was loss.

Loss of knowing where I was,
Who I was.
Loss of close friends through distance and sudden death
Loss of spontaneity,

So, I would walk alone, lost at times,
passing others in conversation.
But what snippets I picked up on the way.

I am not staying here
They have to stay alive in those situations or they will die
There is no air coming in
It is all a bit of a nightmare. Going up and down all the time
Oh, in fact we are better off without it

Mothers and daughters rushing on the school run.
Children skipping by
Allowing bits of conversations to enter my head.

And off, you’ll break the chair

So do you want me to get the pram out, or do you want to walk
Can I wear my cape?

Wondering why she sounded so cross. Tired maybe?
But don’t be cross with her. They grow up so quickly.
Let her wear her cape before it gets too small.

Oh, Congratulations Ali, well done

Now, she sounded better.

People busy on their phones.
Hearing others connect.
Engaged in the familiar.

And 5 minutes after that…
It’s just something else to do
It was a lovely trip. It was …

I want to stop and ask them what happened, where was the trip… ?

I think Giles is coming to see us

That’s a posh name

Went to Sam’s yesterday and dropped them off

What did she drop off? Children, presents…..

She’s an Olympic cyclist
So, I saw them all coming out of the house and Andy was holding the baby
They have so much pressure from Clare, it’s unreal
Tell you what though, there will be another one starting soon
Such a big responsibility.
That’s for Sharon and Steve
And rediscover your routes and learn Chinese
Yes, you have got history on your side. Cool
I doubt if it sells chillies down there

Passing me by, for just moments I get a chance to witness, connect with all these busy lives young and old, friendships, plans, lovely chatter
While I walk home.
Having my own one-way conversation with myself. Uninterrupted
Hearing myself say. It will be ok. Just give it time. Things will settle.