Rachel was on a course at Tedworth House, a recovery centre for wounded, injured and sick service personnel, when she first met Elaine from Step Together. Elaine had done a presentation to the group about volunteering and Rachel thought it would be a really great way to fill her time whilst she was signed off sick with a variety of health issues.

Rachel first volunteered on a Breaking Ground Heritage archaeological dig on Salisbury Plain. She got stuck in with cleaning the finds, as well as excavating in the trenches. Following the dig, Rachel began volunteering at the weekly processing sessions at Wessex Archaeology, where she was involved in post excavation work on a variety of objects ranging from Roman tiles to Iron Age pottery.

Always a keen gardener, Rachel jumped at the chance to volunteer at Heale House Gardens, a stately home near Salisbury which opens its gardens to the public. Working alongside the staff under the guidance of Michael, the Head Gardener, she began increasing her horticultural knowledge. This has led her to decide that she would like to pursue a career in horticulture, while continuing with the archaeology as a hobby. Rachel is now studying for a Level 2 Horticulture qualification and is finding that the experience she is gaining from volunteering at Heale House Gardens is a huge help.

Rachel said that as soon as she did her first volunteering session she began feeling more positive about her future and with each session her confidence grows. She felt that volunteering pushed her out of her comfort zone and into doing new things she had always wanted to try but never had the time or opportunity.

“I have enjoyed the experience immensely and there is so much on offer out there. The Step Together staff are really personable, patient and helpful in finding out what interests you and what you want to try, whether that be hobby or work related or just a reason to get out of the house and try something new. Volunteering has really opened my eyes to new opportunities and that life doesn’t end when you leave the services, in fact it’s a new beginning”.

Rachel is still awaiting medical discharge from the Army and, as well as her horticulture studies and volunteering, is going to be taking part in an archaeological dig on the Waterloo battlefield site in Belgium later this year.

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