My volunteering journey
My name is James McGuire, I have been involved with Achieve More Scotland for the last 9 years. I was 16 years old when I first got involved playing for Possilpark in the Friday Night Football League. At the time I was also starting my 5th year at Secondary school and wasn’t 10% sure what I wanted to do as a career. This was when I first got introduced to the idea of volunteering, so I started to help organise a number of charity fundraisers and assist coaching the first year football team. It was something I really enjoyed as an individual as I felt I was gaining more through volunteering compared to subjects I was studying at school. It also felt really rewarding to give something back to the school for the support and help they had given me over the years.
I enjoyed volunteering so much I then started to look for other opportunities elsewhere and this was when I reached out to Robert McHarg (CEO). I started to come along on Fridays and help count and organise the football strips, helping at sites and various events Achieve More would run at Petershill Leisure Centre. Once I completed my 6th year at secondary school I then started to think about going to college to complete a HND Coaching & Developing Sport: Football Studies, unfortunately I left it too late to apply and had to wait a year before applying for the course again. During my year off I got involved with Achieve More Scotland’s Volunteer Programme and over the course of the year I managed to gain a number of different qualifications including Sports Leadership, Table Tennis, Squash & Racketball, SFA, Ruby League, First Aid, Child Protection and so many other qualifications. Combining this with the experience I was gaining from volunteering was helped me massively and helping improve my confidence and strengthen my CV as I got prepared to apply for College again.
I managed to get an interview two days after submitting my application for college, the senior lecturer at the time was very impressed with my variety of qualifications and experience I had gained at such a young age. Once I got into college I also became a paid sessional coach with Achieve More Scotland and helped at a number of sessions over the two years including Scotstoun, Sighthill, Possilpark, Lambhill, Royston, Townhead and so many other sites. I still dedicated time as a volunteer and continued to undergo qualifications with Achieve More and while being a student at Glasgow Kelvin College I began volunteering with the SFA, Celtic Fc, Red Star Athletics and a mixture of other organisations.
Following completing college I was lucky enough to start a full time position with Achieve More Scotland. My role was extremely varied, I was part of the events management team and my main Role was running the volunteer programme I received a lot of support from my mentor Paul Fletcher. I was in charge of organising the equipment, staff uniform and I was also the Townhead assistant coach and worked alongside the legendary Mahdi Bahrami. One of the key Highlights from my time in this role would be leading two groups of volunteers, who helped support the SFA in running two fan zone events prior to Scotland international matched at Hampden and Ibrox stadium. In addition, I also got the opportunity to select a number of young people to attend trips to St Georges Park and Manchester United Soccer Academy’s and will never forget the day I broke the news to them.
Towards the end of my contract with Achieve More which lasted around 18 months I sat down with Paul Fletcher to plan the next stage in my journey. We discovered an opportunity to go and work in America with an organisation called Atlantic Soccer Factory. I applied for the role and was successful in the first two stages of the application and was invited down to have an interview in Manchester. At the time myself I was also filling out my UCAS application for University after a last minute panic Paul Fletcher managed to get my reference submitted with minutes to go before the deadline. A few months down the line I go offered the job in America and also got two unconditional offers to study at Abertay and Stirling University’s respectively. I decided to take up the option to go and study a BA (Hons) Sports Studies entering at second year and only decided to not go to America due to the lack of communication between myself and Atlantic Soccer Factory.
My 3 years at University created a lot of memories for myself both positively and negatively. I met a lot of interesting people over my time at the university and built a number of contacts across the Stirlingshire Council Area. I still continued to do sessional work with Achieve More Scotland and volunteer as I undergone my studies. I served on the board of trustees for the charity, assisted at the holiday camps when I could spare, I also travelled to the South of France for 2 weeks and when I completed my degree a few days after my graduation I travelled to Madrid for 4 weeks as part of the ERAMUS+ Programme. These are two experiences which will stay with me forever, getting the chance to work with young people and organisations abroad, experience different cultures and meet new people.
Last August I was appointed the project Coordinator at Achieve More Scotland, my main focus was to re-develop and improve our current Volunteer Programme using my knowledge as a previous volunteer with Achieve More and the skills I have developed over the last 6-8 years. To date I have undergone a number of volunteer management training Courses at Volunteer Scotland. Record numbers of volunteers and volunteering hours have been completed at our Holiday and Schools Programmes as well as events such as the Glasgow Kiltwalk and Packing events. The training programme for our volunteers is currently being finalised and will be made available to volunteers very soon.
I have been on a journey with Achieve More Scotland over the last 9 years and I hope it may continue. Volunteering was introduced to me in secondary school and looking back now it set me on a journey that I would never have expected. My confidence and belief in my self has grown massively over this time and I have added so many qualifications and experiences to my CV which has made me far more employable. I am in a job which I am extremely passionate about and want to make a difference to the lives of young people living with similar circumstances to what I grew with when I was young. Volunteering requires a lot of sacrifice and commitment but it can open doors to a potential new career path and in my case I was able to give something back to Achieve More who have supported me continuously over the last 9 years.