Dawn’s story

Dawn Mallender is 29 and lives in Nottingham. She struggled to find work in the media but ended up landing her dream job after a stint as a volunteer hospital DJ.

Volunteering has provided a massive turning point in my life. I’d always wanted to work in the media, but was finding it hard to get a job after university, so I decided to boost my CV with some skills through volunteering. I went on do-it.org.uk to see if there was anything in my local area and found out that Nottingham Hospitals’ Radio (NHR) was looking for people. All the training was provided so it didn’t matter that I had no idea where to start with all the buttons in a studio.

My first task was to do some fundraising, so I organised a Christmas raffle and announced the winners live on the radio – my on-air debut!  After a few months, I had received enough training to present my own show. Because it’s a voluntary position, I could be creative and bring in your own ideas. As well as playing requests from patients, I came up with a couple of features: On This Day, where I discussed interesting things that happened on the same day in former years, and News to Amuse which is a chat about current, light-hearted news stories. I always kept the show positive and try to involve listeners with brainteasers and quizzes.

Some of my time was also spent on ward visits where I chat to patients and tell them about the radio and how they can request songs. I met a lot of extraordinary people and heard some inspiring stories. One little boy was ill for a few months and used to call the studio from his patient line every Saturday. We eventually got him in to visit with his mum and he was on a show. He had a great time, and it was heart-warming to be able to make his stay in hospital better.

I also wanted to be more involved in fundraising and organised some campaigns. I designed a t-shirt which said: “I wish I was a hospital radio DJ,” and tried to get celebrities to wear it. I managed to convince both Terry Wogan and Chesney Hawkes to have their picture taken in the T-shirts.

I found that I loved the challenge of fundraising, and started to question whether I wouldn’t be happier doing a job like that full-time. I wasn’t having any luck finding employment in the media in Nottingham and I was tiring of my admin day-job. So in I applied to Diabetes UK to be a fundraiser – and I got the job! It really was a Christmas miracle. I had spent three years after university trying to get into professional radio, and I never would have guessed that volunteering would change my mind.

Volunteering has really changed my life, and I’d recommend it to anyone who is struggling with their career. It’s an easy way to pursue options and gain valuable experience, especially in new areas. As long as you show commitment and enthusiasm, there are no limits to where volunteering might take you.

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