“My top tip? Bring ear mufflers, as it can get noisy in here”, says Bob with a chuckle when asked what volunteering at Aspire is like. “Only joking, but the guys do like to banter, and when everyone’s in, it can be loud!”
Bob is an experienced database designer, having worked at various companies before being made redundant several years ago. He has family in Sheffield, so moved back to the city and tried to find another job in software. The Job Centre told Bob about Aspire as they thought his skills would be a good fit, and he started volunteering while looking for work elsewhere. Initially Bob was involved in building a database and cataloguing waste electrical and electronic equipment, or WEEE, that Aspire were recycling for their clients, which he enjoyed getting stuck into.
Bob used the experience to secure work elsewhere, so left Aspire for a few years, but when he finally retired, he soon came back to volunteer! Bob is now back volunteering for 2 days each week, continuing to work on cataloguing, and also running the successful eBay shop for Aspire.
“We get some really interesting and unusual equipment donated to sell through our eBay shop!” says Bob. “Scientific equipment, oscilloscopes, microscopes, hibernation cupboards and the like. Sometimes, half the fun is trying to figure out what a piece of equipment actually is, in order that we can try to sell it.”
People can support the work of Aspire by donating most types of electrical, electronic or IT related products including computers, laptops, monitors, cables, wires, bits and parts in ANY condition. They can also accept larger items such as washing machines, cookers, dishwashers, microwaves and audio equipment. Refurbished and wiped computer equipment is sold to the public, schools, charities and businesses, or sold for parts or segregated for recycling.
Reflecting on his time with Aspire, Bob says, “I realised after I’d retired, that while I enjoyed my previous work, and my colleagues were great, there’s something special about this place. It’s the philosophy that makes Aspire special. They’re a great crew, and the way they help out vulnerable and socially isolated people, giving them a sense of purpose, it’s just brilliant. Some people, particularly the younger ones, do placements with us as a stepping stone to find a new career in tech, and that’s great. But the real magic is for the others. Having been here so long I can see the change in people, and how they come out of their shell and find a reason to get up each day. I feel lucky to be part of it and to be able to give back at my stage of life”.
Find out more about the work of Aspire: https://www.aspire-sheffield.co.uk/