How volunteering at Wiston Lodge gave purpose back to Heather

As part of Volunteers’ Week we are highlighting ways those who give their time and effort make a difference to Wiston Lodge. These include youth volunteers helping with activities, people looking to gain work experience, and those who have given their time unpaid, and become part of the team. Here, Heather recalls arriving at Wiston and her path from volunteering to becoming a member of staff. 

Heather Smith, Development Coordinator, Business Support.

“In the early part of 2019 I found Wiston Lodge by chance, or maybe it found me. I had recently moved to the area with my daughter and while taking a walk in the woods nearby I found myself on the path to this huge Victorian Hunting Lodge which until that day I hadn’t known existed. After doing some online research I discovered it was a place of learning for children and young people.

I was living with my daughter, while coping alone with a series of personal traumas that included the very recent death of my 25-year-old son, Ryan. I wasn’t entirely sure what my mind and heart needed at that point in time, only that after reading of their incredible work, the idea of becoming in some way involved in the operations at Wiston Lodge called out to me during the longest, darkest days of my life. I contacted the office, gave them a little of my work history and background, said, ‘Please give me something to do’ and have been here in some capacity ever since.

I now know what it was I found that day, what I needed, exactly when I needed it. It gave me a renewed sense of purpose and a chance to spend all the love I have for children in a place that nourishes and encourages them every day. It gave me my confidence and my life back, and I would encourage anyone who was trying to heal and find that purpose every day to consider volunteering as an option. After all that’s happened, I can find the space only for the kind of work that makes my soul feel good – Wiston Lodge is that space.

Wiston Lodge is a place to grow; not only for the people that visit but also has been for me too. It’s been three years and I still remember how inwardly afraid I felt around new people, the fear of ‘showing’ trauma triggers that included crying whenever I heard a child cry, and feeling my lack of confidence in being seen at all at this time gradually melting away. Wiston is a warm, friendly and hugely supportive place that has opened its arms to me from day one. I’m accepted and made to feel safe to be myself – just as I am, and have been helped to discover work that matches all of my personal and professional strengths. It has felt like an extension of home to me from the moment I arrived. It’s a place where your imagination and ideas are encouraged and heard.

I can’t thank my colleagues at Wiston enough. Thank you for welcoming and gently walking beside me as I made my way back home to myself.”


To find out more about volunteering at Wiston Lodge and to sign up to be a volunteer visit our Volunteering page