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Dan Hadary is a MSC Public Policy Student and a Data & Questionnaire Analyst Volunteer for Kingsgate Community Centre. Kingsgate offers a variety of social, educational, welfare and leisure activities in North West London, providing a source of much enjoyment and fun for local people.

Dan spoke to Nick Batley and Jenny Murphy from the Volunteering Service about his experiences as a Volunteer.

Can you tell us a bit about you role at Kingsgate Community centre?

I was a data analyst primarily - Kingsgate wanted to do a big survey of everyone who was at the centre. So just what they were doing well, what they were doing not so well, what sort of the part of the community their services were catering for, who was doing what and that sort of thing. So they wrote the survey, I helped edit it and make sure it was written effectively and then I helped distribute it and display it to some of the users of the community service. I also helped record the results and understand the findings.

What inspired you to take up this role?

I am taught data analysis as part of my degree in public policy so I thought it was a good way to get some relevant experience. But also, it just seemed like a nice way to spend my time and it was a really good experience, because at a community centre you really get to help a lot of people. So although data analysis was a big part of the role, quite a lot of it was just helping in the office and with the children’s classes. Even dressing up as Santa Claus! IT was really good fun and it was great to do something every day where you feel appreciated because you’re giving up your time. They really value you and everyone’s there for similar reasons, even if it’s their full-time job. It’s just a really positive atmosphere and a really good way to spend a day a week.

What did you find you preferred, the data analysis side or the more community focused engaging with people side?

Definitely the community focused side. The data stuff, it wasn’t sort of as rigorous as I thought it would be. Other than writing up the survey it as just using Microsoft Excel. The actual getting to help people was really nice. It was good because it was what the staff there knew best so I felt that was what I was engaging with more and what I was experiencing at a better level. It was a really interesting environment to be in, as I'd done full-time work before I did my masters and it was just such a different environment to that.

Did you enjoy being at the fore front of creating future plans for the organisation?

What was really good was they gave the volunteers a lot of trust. They really felt like we knew what we were doing and they trusted us and treated us as members of the team. Even though we were only there for a few hours a week they treated us on an equal level, they were really great in that way.

Did you feel you had a lot of autonomy in your role?

Definitely. There was a lot of tasks I had to do, and there were some mundane things as well, but I was happy to do them because you didn’t feel like you were just being used for this and that. Even if it was mundane, it was stuff that had to be done, and at no point did I feel restricted.

Were there any challenges to this role?

There were challenges, for instance I believe all the volunteers were put in charge of monitoring the diary. So if anyone called up and wanted to hire a room or use a service you had to communicate with them, and sometimes a person from the community could be a bit aggressive. Sometimes people who use the community service come from a lot of different backgrounds, for instance a drugs anonymous class and so we had to take certain precautions. When I would volunteer, there was someone who would come in weekly to help people from the Somali area such s people learning English, people who struggled to find accommodation. It was a lot of disheartening things to see there but you left feeling a bit more upbeat as you knew you could help them in some way. It was challenging to see a lot of negative things, you had to be resilient on the phone to certain people, but because you were appreciated it was more than worthwhile.

Do you feel the surveys you did helped Kingsgate refine their services and know what their community wants?

Definitely. I think when they took us on they sort of thought we would be able to work magic and provide this amazing insight but more than that, we were doing simple things and helping them do things that needed to be done. It was the sort of thing anyone could do I think, especially someone who knows how to use a computer. It was just helping them get things done and providing your own insights when working there as well. I think it helped provide a new perspective; it was doing a small bit to help out.

Do you think this volunteering has inspired you to go and do anything else after you graduate?

Well, I’m already doing a degree in public policy so I knew I wanted to work in the public sector. But it did remind me why I made this choice. My previous work experiences showed me I was more interested in working in a people-oriented environment, and my experience volunteering at Kingsgate allowed me to work with people who valued my time. You got to interact with people who appreciated you time and you knew you were actually making a positive impact, and you weren’t just there to help yourself. It’s made me feel more confident in my decision to pursue the career I want. 

If Dan's experience with Kingsgate with has inspired you to get involved, check out their other opportunities, along with other Policy volunteering opportunities!  Or if something else strikes your fancy, please visit our online directory to view all the current roles we have on offer with our 400+ London-based partners!