I’ve been volunteering at Orb for a year or two now and have written before about Orb’s (fairly) new FREE volunteer training programme: Essential Skills in Volunteering.

What a great idea!

A training course for people who wanted to help out with Orb’s work of supporting people with severe and enduring mental health problems!

A training course which helped us to help others to  explore their creativity!

A training course which reflected Orb’s constant drive for increased professionalism!

A training course which didn’t just improve  standards for service users;  it also gave everyone (including keen service users themselves) a range of skills which they could not only use at Orb, but also transfer to other volunteering opportunities – or even into paid work!

I was enormously impressed, and very enthusiastic.

Then Leon tapped me on the shoulder.

‘Pauline – I don’t think you’ve done your training?’


Essential Skills in Volunteering for Positive Mental Health

I thought I knew it all, but  that’s how I found out at first hand how much Orb’s scope has widened.  Scientists, doctors and psychologists (and governments) are becoming more aware that mental health services can do so much more than just step in when an individual’s health has reached crisis point.

Just as with our physical health, there are steps we can all take to improve our own mental wellbeing and also support our family, friends and colleagues when they’re going through stressful times – before it all becomes overwhelming.

Orb’s new, expanded training package – Essential Skills in Volunteering for Positive Mental Health – reflects this more positive, open and pro-active approach in many ways, as I found out when I followed the course myself.


What did I learn?

Essential Skills in Volunteering for Positive Mental Health is a flexible 20 hour course – (flexible means some time with a mentor, some hands on volunteering, some home study).

Firstly I was taken on a tour of Orb.  Yes, I did this a few years ago, but it was fascinating to see how much, and how quickly things have changed.  The Artspace, the Rehearsal Room, the Recording Studio, the IT suite and the Garden are constantly updated and all still fit into a pocket sized space.

I was updated on Orb’s policies, such as Health and Safety, Equality and Diversity, Confidentiality and  Data Protection. In today’s complex world of employment this kind of knowledge is vital.  It’s equally vital for anyone looking for a volunteering post with any charity.

I was then taken on to some facts and figures about Orb, which I thought I knew.   For example:

Orb has now been delivering services for over 8 years, supporting over 100 service users a year, involving and training upwards of 60 volunteers (61 now!)

I learned about working with vulnerable people.  This means you and me; we all go through periods when we feel a little off balance.  25% of us will have a diagnosable mental illness at some point in our lives.  Almost all of us will be aware of a family member or friend who is struggling with some form of stress.  Not everyone has the skills to support people at these times – but training can help.

I learned that we can all learn how to  to build our own mental wellbeing – just as we can all learn  to improve  our physical health.

I learned that, if we’re working in a stressful environment (and who isn’t these days?) there are things we can do to help our employer to help us, and our colleagues.

On a more everyday basis, I learned how  friendly, imaginative, patient, kind and committed the staff at Orb are.

Actually, I knew that bit  already.

And I was  reminded about how important creativity is to all of us. Trailing cables can be a health and safety hazard – but they can also connect us up to aspects of music /art / language / nature that can help to restore our sense of peace.

If you’d like to find out more about Orb’s free volunteer training scheme – Essential Skills in Volunteering for Positive Mental Health – please contact  Mark or Leon on 01423 202028 or visit the website: WWW.orb-arts.org