Becca Jane St Clair

Personal Blog

To Volunteer or Not…

I really need some opinions on this matter.

I volunteer at the Cancer Research UK charity shop on Thursday afternoons from 1-5PM. I take the bus into town (£2.50) and then usually meet up with 2 friends to go to chorus, and then another friend would give me a lift home.

My friends I usually meet are no longer available to meet me before chorus to give me a lift, so I’m stuck scrambling for a solution. Another chorus friend lives in one of the villages near me, and she’s offered to give me lifts on “most” Thursdays if I can get to her house via the bus. I’m fine with doing that, but it will mean paying for a return fare into town (£4.50) plus a single to her village (£2) every week. I’d also only have about 45 minutes at home between busses to shove something to eat down my neck. That’s not counting busses running late (they nearly always are) or the walk to the bus stop (about 5 minutes each way). So really, I’m looking at spending maybe if I’m lucky a half hour at home. Which isn’t enough time to cook anything, so I’d either have to have a meal in the crock pot waiting, or just have a sandwich. Even heating up my oven to cook chips takes nearly 20 minutes! The downside to a crock pot meal is that depending on Tim’s schedule, he might not get to eat it, but would have to smell it cooking, which really isn’t fair.

This also means I’d be spending £4.50 each week just to volunteer….over £20/month. In a time when Tim and I are trying to cut back on some of our finances so we can put more into savings…do I really want to spend that extra £20/month? Granted, some weeks I go into town early and do some shopping, but since I’m also trying to cut back on my extracurricular shopping trips, I can’t really use shopping as an excuse. Plus, I always have to take the bus into town on Market days, since Market isn’t on a Thursday.

And let’s talk about the volunteering.

I started volunteering to get myself out of the house, to meet people, and to possibly count towards my eventual citizenship*. I started in March 2010, and I have not met anyone to hang out with outside of the volunteer job. I’d say I’m “friends” with the woman I usually work with, but we don’t even have each other’s mobile numbers and we only talk if we’re both at the volunteer job at the same time…and since September, it’s been hard to find a day when we’re both there since they keep switching her schedule around. I do not get along with anyone else I volunteer with, other than one of the men who helps out with sorting (and he’s not usually on the floor). All of the other women who work on the floor just rub me the wrong way, boss me around, treat me horribly, or are just too quiet to try to make friends with and barely answer my questions if I try to start a conversation. One of them clearly has a problem with immigrants as well, as she makes horrible comments but then covers them up with a “but of course I don’t mean you”**. Another deliberately gives me a hard time any time I use the word “pants” instead of “trousers”. Now, most people know what I mean (and even this person knows) if I say “pants”. Customers recognize that I am American and that in America we call trousers “pants”. Nine times out of ten, I catch myself and correct myself immediately when talking to a customer, but there is one of the co-workers who always sneers at me if I use an American clothing word.

The bosses are nice, but sometimes I think they think we are all uneducated and they seem surprised when I pick things up after being shown/told once….but then if I make one tiny mistake I get called out for it, so really, you can’t quite win with them. The bosses (and other co-workers) seem to be plagued with the same problem some of the chorus members have of “you should just know this because that’s how it’s done”.

I know I’m not happy 100% with the “job”. I think if I was 100% happy there, I wouldn’t bat an eye at spending £20/week to commute to it. But really, it’s more like about 20%. Most Thursdays I really can’t get up the excitement to go, but I do it anyway.

I don’t want to be a quitter. I wanted to stick it out and “just do it”, but I really don’t want to spend that money and rush myself around like that.

Tim didn’t want me to quit the many times I said I wanted to before, because he didn’t want me to be one of those people who never leaves the house and who doesn’t have a life of her own outside of her husband, but I do things. I have friends that I see and do things with. I take the train to visit friends and other places….I’m not going to suddenly become an invalid if I stop volunteering. I also still have (for now) chorus. I think Tim is starting to see point in me leaving it though now that my schedule is changing.

PLUS, our steam-ups are always on Thursdays, and if I’m not volunteering, I’d at least be present for part of the steam-up. I’ve missed so many of them last season, and some of Tim’s friends (my friends now, too) were disappointed when they didn’t see me.

So, how do I graciously get out of this? Do I need to write a formal letter stating that I am leaving? Do I ask if I can leave myself on the roster for possibly going back if my schedule changes again? Do I just call in and say “not doing this any more” or do I need to attend a “last day”?

*The volunteering was part of the Earned Citizenship stuff to reduce wait time from 5 years to 3. Parts of the EC have been thrown out, but no one seems to know if this volunteering thing will still be needed….but they also never released figures stating how much volunteering you needed to do for it to count.

**I don’t think we need to get into this again. Those of us who are (white/English-speaking) immigrants in the UK get treated to comments like that all the time.

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7 Comments so far

  1. falnfenix January 10th, 2011 13:34

    that’s…tough. i’d ask friends who are IN the UK about it – they might have different “rules” about leaving a job. i know that were this here, in the US, i’d say just up and leave – who gives a crap about volunteer jobs? – but the fact that it MAY count toward the whole citizenship thing gives me pause.

  2. Rebecca January 10th, 2011 13:39

    I’ve got some facebook comments on this, and one of them is from a UK immigration lawyer. She said it’s not a requirement anymore.

  3. falnfenix January 10th, 2011 13:40

    does she suggest how to leave? heck, does she even hint at the generally accepted “rules” on leaving a job over there?

  4. miss m January 10th, 2011 15:25

    I’d say, if you want to avoid burning bridges and as a CYA type precaution, just let them know that you’ve enjoyed volunteering, but your schedule has changed. For the foreseeable future, you will no longer be able to volunteer but that you hope, should the opportunity again allow, that you could once again offer your survives at another time. Then add some BS about appreciating the chance to get some first-hand experience as a new resident in the UK or somesuch crap like that.

  5. Chris January 10th, 2011 21:31

    I think the above comment by miss m is PERFECT. It covers your bases to allow you to go back, but yet gets you out of it without any real issue.

  6. Michelloui January 11th, 2011 15:37

    I definitely agree with miss m. Life is tooooo short. Quit the volunteer job. If you still want to get out and meet people there’s other ways!

    Don’t forget that volunteering is also excellent for your UK CV as it still counts as work experience and you can use those people as references (‘yes, she turned up to work on time, yes, she was pleasant to work with, yes, she works well in a team’) so do make sure you leave with good grace. And I know you’re not planning on working yet but strongly consider volunteering elsewhere when you have time. I speak as a former recruitment professional in the UK!

  7. Rebecca January 18th, 2011 13:54

    Thanks. I wound up quitting, because of all the supporting comments both here and on facebook. I think I’m going to take a break for a little while from volunteering and then think about finding something in a few months again. Tim’s still worried about me being stuck in teh house all day…but I kind of like it.

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