Danny is Look Ahead’s longest serving peer support volunteer, he has continued in this role in addition to paid work.
I sort of fell into the role of peer support volunteer by accident. Things got hard for me after my Mum passed away a few years back, and I was referred to a Look Ahead homelessness service in Southwark, south London, so I could get back on my feet.
The support workers there were very encouraging, and I was impressed by how helpful they were, especially while I was moving into the hostel. I found them inspiring, and it rubbed off on me too. Before long, I was trying to encourage my fellow customers as well. I was reminding them to make sure they paid their rent and bills on time. To follow their tenancy agreements and the house rules to the letter, to listen to their support workers, and perhaps most importantly, to manage their expectations and be patient. It wasn’t all dos and don’ts though, we had plenty of fun too, and I loved arranging customer pool tournaments.
After that, I got involved with Look Ahead’s peer support volunteer programme. I still take part in it regularly, even though I’m no longer a customer. At the moment, I am supporting a customer from one of Look Ahead’s mental health services. I work alongside her support worker to provide extra support. We go out together every week, to nice places like Brixton Market or the Imperial War Museum. It’s been fantastic seeing her overcoming her anxiety, and I’m really looking forward to when she builds up the confidence to go out and about independently.
If you asked me to describe how it feels to support someone else, I’d say “ecstatic.” You get to make a difference to another human being who didn’t feel good that day, you can be the one who helps them feel better.
Helping others helped me to understand my own needs too, and how to help myself. It really motivated me to “look ahead” you might say and move forward with my life. My volunteering work helped me find a job too, I now work as a kitchen porter at London Business School in Regents Park. They asked about my volunteering in the interview, even though I’d had other jobs before.
I support other colleagues at work too. I get good results from them as I advise with kindness. I love working and I love volunteering, it’s made me who I am today.
I live independently in my own flat, and I’m proud of myself as are my family. It makes me so happy that people ask me to help out including the Head Office Team at Look Ahead. It provides me with opportunities to help the wider organisation and more customers. I want other people to have the support that I’ve had and to feel the way I do now. Confident, strong, and happy.