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Celebrating NCFE’s brilliant volunteers

We’re celebrating the amazing volunteers we have within our team here at NCFE.  Alongside their day jobs, a number of the NCFE team volunteer for various roles – from School Governors, to Crisis Text Volunteers, to Farmers! In this article, we’ve highlighted just some of our volunteers and the inspirational work they do for their communities.  

Ashley Collins Couchois, Check-in and Chat Volunteer 

Ashley Collins Couchois, Assessment Production Officer at NCFE, volunteers as a Check-in and Chat Volunteer for the GoodSAM app for the NHS, through the Royal Voluntary Service. Ashley has been volunteering for the GoodSAM app since the pandemic began, as she wanted to help out in some way whilst having to self-isolate at home.  

“I felt it to be a very worthwhile opportunity to support people who were elderly or in isolation and to help the NHS at the same time. I make calls to people who have either requested calls due to isolation, health issues, being alone or lonely, and those who need assistance or those who have been referred by the NHS or other support organisations.” 

Charmaine Phelps, Crisis Text Volunteer 

Charmaine Phelps, Curriculum Officer at NCFE, volunteers for SHOUT 85258  a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope. Charmaine started volunteering in September 2019 as a Crisis Text Volunteer. Having had a personal experience of the impact of suicide, Charmaine wanted to help people who are in a state of crisis find calm and know that there is support available to them.  

Charmaine volunteers around 2 hours a week, having text conversations and providing support to people in times of crisis. Training is given before taking your first conversation and volunteers have a supervisor at all times who can help if there is a high risk to the texter or a safeguarding concern. There is also a community of support and coaches as well as access to ongoing free training. 

“I would definitely recommend volunteering and SHOUT is currently open for applications for new volunteers: giveusashout.org/volunteer. There are sometimes events that we are invited to and I recently got a free ticket to a John Bishop gig to advocate for his “Say Hello” campaign, to encourage people to go to gigs alone and strike up conversations with strangers to stave off loneliness.”  

David Coulthard, Media Team Volunteer 

David Coulthard, Project Manager at NCFE, volunteers for Hebburn Town Football Club, his local community team who play in the 8th tier of English football. All clubs at this level can only survive through the support of volunteers, whether that’s washing the kits, manning the turnstiles, serving food on a match day, or various other roles. David has been a volunteer within the Media Team since August 2021, having previously volunteered on an ad hoc basis in 2020.  

“I love writing and I love football, so a few years back I decided to combine the two and write about non-league football. After running my own website and Twitter page for a while, I spotted an opportunity to join Hebburn in the summer and have loved it so far. Hebburn are my local club and I’ve followed their progress closely for a few years. I’d also got to know some of the people at the club and couldn’t resist the opportunity to get involved.” 

For every home match, the media team produce a digital matchday programme, which is free for all supporters. David also regularly contributes articles, mainly history pieces, on the opposition team as well as match reports. “I love feeling part of the club. There are some great people involved with the club and it’s been fantastic to be a part of what they are trying to achieve.” 

Donna McEwan, Parkrun Support 

Donna McEwan, Qualifications Development Manager at NCFE, volunteers as Parkrun Support at her local parkrun. Donna began volunteering in late 2019 and has volunteered at almost 30 runs to date. Having previously taken part on parkruns, Donna always appreciated the support from the volunteers, whether that was scanning barcodes, marshalling or handing out position tokens.  

“I love the ethos behind parkrun, to give people a safe space to improve their wellbeing, get outdoors and meet other people, and all at no cost. It doesn’t matter whether you walk, jog, or run.  Some people bring their dogs, others bring little ones in their buggies, it’s very inclusive!  You get to meet all sorts of people and I love hearing their stories about why they do parkrun and what the day’s achievement means to them. I would definitely recommend volunteering as It’s a great way to meet people, try new things and give something back to the community.” 

Emma Buglass, Farmer  

Emma Buglass, Senior Customer Support Advisor at NCFE, volunteers on a farm in Slaley each year to help with lambing. She started in 2019 after hearing about ‘ecotherapy’, where being outdoors surrounded by nature can improve your mental health. Having rented a cottage on a farm in Northumberland for a night away, Emma asked the farmer if she could help out. Her role involves assisting in births, numbering the sheep and their lambs, moving sheep and their lambs from maternity ward to nursery to field, feeding, health checks and field checks. 

“I love everything and the role! The fresh air and amount of space is amazing, the sheep are lush and pulling a lamb into the world will never get boring. The orphaned pet lambs are like little puppies, they get bottle fed and love to have a play! It’s all so far removed from what I do in day-to-day life. It’s hard work but feels like an absolute treat, and I’m very lucky I found them and they were happy for me to get stuck in! I would absolutely recommend volunteering, you’re helping someone who needs it, and you get a warm fuzzy feeling seeing how it has helped.”  

Helen Scanlan, School Governor 

Helen Scanlan, Curriculum Officer at NCFE, has been volunteering at Stocksfield Avenue Primary School since May 2021. As a School Governor, Helen attends meetings, visits the school and advises the headteacher on reviewing school policies and procedures.   

“I decided to start volunteering at Stocksfield Avenue Primary School as I wanted to give something back to the school I attended as a child and I wanted to support my local community. I have learned so much about education in the early years, as all my teaching experience is with older learners. I would recommend volunteering as I can use what I learn in my working role at NCFE within the school.” 

Kelly Graham, School Governor 

Kelly Graham, EQA Continuous Improvement Lead at NCFE, has volunteered at Ponteland Community High School as a School Governor for two years, after wanting to give back to the community and gain a greater insight into the world of education. As a School Governor, Kelly attends Governor meetings and school visits, assisting with interviews and investigations, listening to and challenging the Headteacher regarding the operations of the school. 

Having worked in education for over 20 years, Kelly wanted to gain a greater understanding of assessment systems and processes within schools, as well as how schools decide which qualifications to deliver and Awarding Organisations to work with. 

“I love attending school visits and meeting the students, where I observe lessons and speak with students to identify what they enjoy. I’m often amazed by the advancements in technology and how this is incorporated into the classroom and the dedication of the teaching staff to make lessons fun and engaging!” 

Kelly Parker, Driver and Host  

Kelly Parker, EPA Independent End Point Assessor as NCFE, volunteers for Re-engage who organises tea parties for the elderly one Sunday a month. During the pandemic, volunteers have also been calling them and helping them to do their shopping. Kelly has been volunteering as a driver and host for the Ipswich area for two and a half years after missing working in care.   

“I wanted to support the elderly, providing company for those who are lonely is very rewarding. I collect people from their homes and drive them to a tea party one Sunday a month and occasionally will host a tea party at my house!” 

Rachael Lacey, Appropriate Adult 

Rachael Lacey, Principal Lead External Quality Assurer at NCFE, volunteers with Stockton and Middlesbrough Mind as an Appropriate Adult. Founded in 1946, Mind is a national charity that provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem, whilst campaigning for improved services, raising awareness and promoting understanding. 

Rachael has been working with the charity for over two years. Having been working in the FE sector with many vulnerable adults, she wanted to use the experience she already had to support the charity, but to also gain new skills and to experience new situations, to further develop her knowledge and understanding of the challenges some people face.  

“As an Appropriate Adult, you are trained to support people with mild to moderate mental health needs and/or learner disabilities who are in police custody. You are there to support the vulnerable person at this difficult time, by being present for custody processes, including receiving rights, interview processes and charges being given. Each shift is completely different to the last, it opens your eyes and gives you a real perspective into other people’s situations. The role is very rewarding, and you really do feel appreciated by the service users, Police and Mind itself.”  

Rich Hanley, Dog Walker 


Rich Hanley, Graphic Designer at NCFE, voluntarily walks his neighbour’s guide dog twice a week, providing a helping hand  especially in the cold winter months.  

“I enjoy being outdoors and generally feel good about helping others and doing the right thing. I would absolutely recommend volunteering, it puts life into perspective and can have a positive impact on your own well-being, as well as others.” 

Robert Box, Football Coach 

Robert Box, External Quality Assurer at NCFE, volunteers as a coach at Worcester City Football Club. Robert has volunteered for various clubs over the years, having started at Worcester City Football Club earlier this year. Having seen a coach struggling on his own, Robert decided to volunteer as a coach, which entails coaching children in football, setting standards, supporting best practice, encouraging positive play and most importantly encouraging a win, lose, draw (it doesn’t matter!) mentality  to just enjoy it. 

“I enjoy being able to help those children with low confidence and helping players to improve. For those who are able to commit and have a strong moral compass, I would definitely recommend volunteering.”  

Vicky Marlee, Visitor Volunteer 

Vicky Marlee, Stakeholder Engagement Officer at NCFE, volunteers as a Visitor Volunteer at Independent Age, a charity which give free, confidential advice over the telephone for older people, their families and carers on issues such as getting help at home, adaptations, care assessments, paying for care, staying in touch with other people and welfare benefits. Vicky has been volunteering there for over three years and visits her contact Bob on a weekly basis in his home for an hour to chat and keep him company.  

“I couldn’t have been matched with a better person. Bob is the most positive person I’ve met and has taught me a lot about his past and outlook to life and what he’s lived through. It makes me feel good that I’m making a difference to his loneliness.” 

Feeling inspired?  

There are lots of voluntary roles out there within your local community. The below links will help you find a volunteer role which is most suited to your lifestyle and commitments.  

I would definitely recommend volunteering as It’s a great way to meet people, try new things and give something back to the community.

Donna McEwan, Qualifications Development Manager at NCFE and Parkrun Support