We want you!
The Pankhurst volunteers are an amazing, inspiring group of people, without whom we simply would not have achieved what we have over the past year. Yet to deliver upon our plans for the year ahead – we need more of you!
We’re looking for volunteers across a number of different skill sets, in particular social media or to support our archiving project. Volunteering at The Pankhurst Centre can be an excellent way to enhance your personal or career development, find out more about Manchester’s rich heritage, grow your social network or simply to reap the rewards of giving back to your community.
To give you a further insight as to the life of a Pankhurst volunteer, we caught up with Helen Menzies, who has been a volunteer at the heritage museum for more than two years.
Q. Helen, tell us a bit about your background?
A. I spent the majority of my career as a social worker, in particular working with people with mental health problems and physical disabilities. I’d worked for a long, long time in social services. In the end I was truly fed up with paper work and bureaucracy and I decided to retire, though I knew I wanted to do something more with my time.
Q. Why did you choose to volunteer at The Pankhurst?
A. I was looking for something to do which would be totally different to the work I had done before. I’d always wanted to visit the museum – so when I finally went one afternoon and saw a leaflet asking for volunteers, it was the perfect opportunity and timing! I’ve always had a keen interest in history and the fact that this was a charity that supports women really appealed. I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of volunteering at a museum as I’d have I could be bored! I suspect that is the case at some museums but not here! The Pankhurst is a small museum and one that is important to people; as a volunteer you play a really important role interacting with visitors.
Q. What type of tasks do you undertake as a volunteer?
A. It’s very varied which is what makes it so great! We’re responsible for welcoming visitors and giving them all of the information that they need, providing tours of the centre and managing the heritage shop. Some visitors come not knowing anything about the centre’s history, others come knowing more than we do! It’s nice because you are constantly welcoming people from different walks of life.
Q. What kind of skills do you think are important for a Pankhurst volunteer to have?
A. I don’t think you need to know an awful lot about history – you certainly pick up that whilst you are here! That said, you’ve got to be willing to learn. As a volunteer in the museum, you need to be quite good with people, speaking to lots of different types of visitors and facilitating their visit. We want all of our visitors to have the best experience possible and we all act very professionally, though the volunteers are good fun and we’re all big talkers as well!
Q. How have you personally benefitted from volunteering at The Pankhurst?
A. I’ve learnt lots more about the history of the period and the importance of the Pankhurst Centre, which has been fascinating. I’d even say I’ve learnt a lot about Manchester and its heritage which I find very rewarding. The social aspect and the opportunity to meet new people is excellent and for me it’s been a great way to do something completely different to my career.
Q. What advice would you offer to anyone considering volunteering at The Pankhurst?
A. I think if you are considering it then it’s useful to come and try it a few times, to see how it works for you! Again, we’ve had a few people (myself included) who came on that basis – we’re still here now! We’re usually quite busy and as I’ve already mentioned everyone is really lovely. There are lots of organisations out there asking for volunteers and I’ve had some bad experiences I can tell you. At The Pankhurst you have the opportunity to work closely as a team and make a real difference.
Q. Finally, which woman inspires you and why?
A. I’m currently reading Aung San Suu Kyi’s (the leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma) biography. Her story is so inspiring. What she stands for and the personal sacrifices she has made are just incredible.