Give it up!

5th August 2005 at 01:00
Medical training, kayaking, a spot at the Oasis concert and an invite from Buckingham Palace. Do you need any more convincing to volunteer?

Maria Podlasiuk is a 34-year-old science teacher at Parkland high school, Manchester

Volunteer role

St John Ambulance Brigade's assistant county commissioner for youth, Manchester.

What inspired you to volunteer?

In 1984, when I started high school, I wanted to be a doctor and thought the first-aid training with St John cadets would help. But I soon realised that I enjoyed the social side of it, as well as the sailing, kayaking and rock climbing, and stuck with it, even when my career path changed.

Did you receive any training?

As a cadet I gained my Grand Prior award, which involves becoming skilled in 12 different subjects including emergency care, communication and life and social skills. I have also received youth leadership training.

How much time do you give?

It varies from week to week. It might be just a couple of hours a week, or a weekend.

What do you enjoy the most?

Watching young people - 70 per cent of our membership is under 25 - succeed and learn new things outside school. There has also been the frequent trips to Old Trafford for duty at football matches and to Manchester Arena for Oasis and U2 concerts. Although I am now less hands-on, I can pick and choose which event to cover. One of the perks of the post.

....and the least?

Now I'm so senior I end up dealing with all the problems and groans passed up from the members. The more responsibility I have, the more niggles I have to sort out.

Has the experience changed you?

Yes. Without it I would not have been able to do many of the things I could only have dreamed of doing. I've been to Buckingham Palace and met Sophie Wessex.

Has volunteering affected your working life?

When I first started to do the youth leadership training I was working in the labs at Christie's, Manchester's specialist cancer hospital, but I enjoyed working with young people so much I switched to teacher training. I can also see how teenagers behave outside school, which I think helped me as I a new teacher.

Do you encourage others to volunteer?

I would encourage anyone able to give the time commitment to take up volunteering; we particularly need youth workers. Volunteering opens up so many opportunities.

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