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Sharing skills, building friendships and moving forward through volunteering

Halifax Opportunities Trust works with individuals to understand their life and support them in overcoming any challenges that may be preventing them from moving forward. The HOT Employment team partners with a range of organisations to offer holistic support for people seeking advice and guidance on their employability journey, through activities that subtly link with employment. An example of this is through volunteering at HOT’s Outback Community Kitchen and Garden, where individuals can gain many benefits for personal and professional development.  


Supporting people throughout their employability journey can often take time. We often work with individuals who have low confidence, limited mobility or life-limiting conditions that mean finding or getting back into work has more challenges than simply applying for jobs. It sometimes takes a while for people to get back into the mindset of work, build their confidence and enhance their skills before taking the big step in to seeking employment.

An effective way for people to begin their employability journey, is to volunteer. As a charity we are able offer a range of flexible volunteering opportunities, which can be an excellent way to gain new skills, meet new people, find motivation and purpose. All factors that contribute to becoming work-ready. The Outback Community Kitchen and Garden is a Green Space that runs on sustainable principles and is powered by community spirit. Here, there are many volunteering opportunities, from cooking to weeding, joinery to beekeeping.

Sharing Skills

For some of the volunteers at The Outback Community Kitchen and Garden, their journey isn’t about the destination but about the experiences they gain along the way. Mike* is a recovering alcoholic and first reached out to Halifax Opportunities Trust in the COVID pandemic, as he was experiencing social isolation and anxiety that he feared would cause him to relapse.

He soon started visiting the Outback to volunteer, so he could interact with others and contribute his skills as a trained carpenter. He regularly gets involved in some of the big builds in the garden, making planters and repairing existing structures. From the connections he has built with Halifax Opportunities Trust, he has completed a number of courses including:

  • Dry Stone Walling
  • First Aid
  • Computer skills
  • Stone carving

Mike comments: “I genuinely believe coming here has saved my life. It’s given me stability and support when I’ve needed it, and I’ve gained so many new skills that all complement my joinery skills.”

Building friendships

With such a large open space, the Outback can support volunteers who like to work in isolation while also offering group tasks for those who prefer working alongside others. Forest* is currently volunteering due to a life-limiting condition that makes finding employment difficult, so visits the Outback to maintain social interaction and build friendships.

She loves working in the kitchen on a Tuesday to help the team prepare free, healthy meals for the public at the Tuesday Takeaway.

Forest says: “Since volunteering at the Outback I have become more confident and comfortable working with people. Everyone is so nice and we support each other.”

Moving Forward

Some of the volunteers at the Outback use it as an opportunity to learn their strengths and think about their next steps. With so many different types of volunteering opportunities, many volunteers try out a range of tasks before settling with something they enjoy doing.

Liz* likes weeding and will happily spend her time at the Outback pruning and preening unruly weeds and plants, to encourage crops to grow and thrive – similar to the impact volunteering has, removing barriers for growth. Liz hopes that one day she can work again, but is unsure about the industry she’d like to work in.

Liz comments: “I come here as it gives me motivation, a reason to get up in the morning.”

Volunteering and being in the outdoors can have a significant impact on wellbeing, which can result in increased motivation, reduced stress and better quality of life. Through the volunteering opportunities available at Halifax Opportunities Trust, we are creating opportunities for a better life.

*Names changed to uphold anonymity

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