Elishia’s story

After volunteering at the Employment Academy, Elishia is now enjoying her permanent role with Thames Reach

Elishia’s story

Elishia had spent most of the past four years indoors. She had not been able to find much work and, suffering with chronic pain and mobility issues, she became very isolated, stuck in her flat without much fulfilling activity in her life.

Thames Reach was mentioned to her one day by a friend who had just completed the Work Ready Programme, a week-long activity course aimed at helping people develop the skills to better find employment. Elishia lived close to the Employment Academy, Thames Reach’s community resource centre in Camberwell, and decided to investigate.

Liking what she saw, Elishia applied to become a volunteer receptionist, and was soon working part-time alongside reception manager Michelle, whose support proved invaluable in helping Elishia settle into her role.

Volunteering her time in an environment she found warm and welcoming, Elishia’s mental health began to improve, and she soon realised how much she enjoyed working with visitors to the Employment Academy.

“I felt very comfortable on reception,” she said. “I felt like I was meant to work here.’”

After a few months, she became a permanent member of staff. Her role involved welcoming visitors and clients, many of whom attend in order to meet with the Thames Reach employment and skills team, and also taking room hire bookings and preparing for the wide range of events that take place in the building.

“We have so much going on here,” she said. “We have meeting rooms and office space that gets booked up, but the building is also used for children’s birthdays, church services, theatre groups and community meetings. We even have a wedding licence, and we have lots of weddings here along with parties in the courtyard in the summer.

“It’s my job to get the place ready for anyone who’s made a booking. I work hard to get everything just right and, every event I’ve covered, I’ve always felt appreciated by clients and visitors and that’s what makes me want to stay here in this job.”

Elishia feels that volunteering has opened the door to a more fulfilling life for her. 

“I really want to carry on here. I was really struggling before but now I get a lot of joy from what I’m doing. To other people who are thinking of volunteering but are unsure, I’d tell them to not be scared, you won’t know what you enjoy, and what feels worthwhile to you, until you go out and try. You can get so much out of it, it feels great to contribute, and it can help you with finding a permanent job in the future.”