Why I Volunteer
(This article first appeared in The National newspaper on 13 July)
Susan Stokes is an SPA Independent Custody Visitor.
Why do I volunteer? I must confess that it is for personal development and that I do actually have an interest in the care and welfare of people in the community.
Unlike a 'job' I don't have the daily pressures of achieving targets and all the administration that can go with it. This makes such a difference and means I can really enjoy and focus on what I do. I believe it opens up the more compassionate and understanding part of me; I have more time to think and talk.
As a newcomer to Scotland, the role has afforded me the opportunity to travel to parts of the country I wouldn't normally have seen and, as we always carry out our visits in pairs, has allowed me to meet new friends and other volunteers in Scotland.
Being a custody visitor allows me to report on the care and welfare of those deprived of their liberty and raise issues with senior police officers.
People we go to see in custody can relate to us and respond well to our visits. I think they feel more comfortable knowing that, like them, we are members of the general public. We are outside the situation they are in, not in a uniform or within the organisation that they are dealing with, which can be in difficult or sensitive circumstances. I feel volunteering as an Independent Custody Visitor is a win-win for everyone involved, for me on a personal level and for those who are on the receiving end. I have seen the gratitude on their faces, even a smile.
You can volunteer at any age above 18, and can do so alongside your current job or career. We have flexibility within a rota system and are extremely well supported by our regional co-ordinators. We are also kept up to date with skills and training in this fast-changing world and can find ourselves attending courses, seminars and regular meetings. This is something that I have benefited from as I wanted to update my skills and knowledge. It has been highly educational and extremely interesting. It has strengthened my CV and prospective employers are always happy to know I have gone through police checks and am trusted to carry out this role.
Find out how you can volunteer as an Independent Custody Volunteer in Scotland.