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Joe Callery

I currently volunteer for Renfrewshire CHP smoking cessation services. After working for a large majority of my life, constantly looking for overtime, trying to earn as much money as I could just to get by. Volunteering would never enter my mind as an option, as I could never understand why someone would work for nothing.

In my working days, I helped a very famous fish restaurant get into the Guinness book of records. I really thought that this feeling of achievement could never be beaten.

Because of ill health mainly due to smoking, I decided after all my failed attempts of stopping smoking in the past that I would join a smoking cessation group. I always said I never had the will power to stop, or it was far too hard. My previous attempts never got past the one day mark, probably at the most 8 hrs.

After successfully going through a 7 week course, I came out of it with 4 weeks smoke free under my belt. I was asked if I would be interested in putting my name down for volunteering in the future, as they were trying out a buddy system for people that had stopped smoking, to give them extra support. On a high from the achievement of stopping for a month, I put my name down and realised that the support of the group had ended and I had nothing else to keep me motivated and felt that volunteering could be my focus for the future.

I went on an 8 month training programme. I then started going to other smoking cessation groups telling of my experiences, what I did to keep me from smoking again and giving people tips on how to stop. I progressed to running a support group for people that had stopped, but needed extra support to stay that way. I ran this at the same time as the stop smoking group and in doing this meant that both sets of people would pass in the same corridor, which for the people stopping would give them a target to get to and for the ones that had stopped, gave them a memory of where they used to be.

I have also been involved in many media campaigns with newspapers, radio and even on the STV website. None of this would have been achieved if I had not taken that decision to tick the box to become a volunteer.

The feeling you get from helping one person remain stopped from smoking, for one extra week, is hard to put into words. You get back a lot more than any wage packet can ever give you. Volunteering means you are there because you want to be and not because you are just making ends meet to pay the bills.

We give out silver certificates for people that have stopped for six months and gold certificates for 1 year. Every time I come to handing the certificates out, it takes me back to the record breaking days and the feeling of achievement. That’s what volunteering gives to me.