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Following our training in the Autumn the group of three volunteers felt pleased to have successfully completed the course and were eager to be matched with a partner and keen to put our training into action.

Time was not wasted and Dave telephoned early in January, ready to discuss possible partnerships.

The initial confidence at completing the course was replaced by some feelings of trepidation as the first meeting between my proposed partner and myself was set up. What were my concerns? Would I be the right ‘fit’ for my partner? Would I find myself in a situation I wouldn't’t know how to handle? Above all, how useful would I be to my partner?
However, the good news was that initially I was to work alongside and be supported by one of the team of Independent Advocates. This has proved invaluable in showing me the ropes, and also enabled us to discuss and evaluate the way things are going. Together we’ve formed a very workable team! It’s an excellent practice that could also be helpful for future volunteers.

Over the months I’ve met with my partner about every ten days or so, depending on need. Aspects of the work have included meeting regularly with my partner in her home or in a variety of day centres, attending and contributing to case conferences and then reporting back to Sandwell Advocacy. I’ve found the reporting back very beneficial to me as I’ve been able to raise any concerns and also just talk through things generally.
I’ve really enjoyed building a rapport and gradually forming a bond with my partner, and hopefully encouraging her trust in me to develop. This was helped by our joining together with other partners for a meal and a theatre visit to celebrate International Women’s day. It was a memorable trip and proved fun for us all. It was also great to meet other partners and members of Sandwell Advocacy.

Of course there have been plenty of challenges for me! I’m needing to get to grips with what and how the systems operate which will support my partner. There is a range of terminology and jargon with which I am unfamiliar and I’m realising that the wheels of officialdom move very slowly! Personally this is a very new world for me and a steep learning curve, but generally a positive one!

I feel optimistic about the future and hope that I’ll be more useful as I become more experienced and confident in the role.

I firmly believe in Sandwell Advocacy, and value being part of this team which is committed to making a difference.

By Anne Game

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