A love for volunteering nurtured at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has inspired graduate Tilley Faulkner-Porter to help at the heart of her local community.
The 27-year-old’s career was knocked off-course when her graduate dance company role fell through due to the pandemic. But her determination and optimism has helped her set a new path as Morrisons Leicester’s Community Champion, raising money for charities and helping those who need it most.
Tilley, who graduated from DMU’s Dance BA in 2020, said that when she was made redundant she had ‘no idea’ what to do next. But hearing that supermarket giant Morrisons had roles available, she decided to apply.
She said: “Initially I was really sad, I’d lost my dream job. My strengths lay in working with people and teaching dance projects, so the role was everything I’d wanted to do.
“But I went in with the approach of trying to make everything a positive experience. And I was so grateful to have work to keep going and have some form of normality.”
Tilley worked in the Morrisons Amazon department for three months, until the supermarket advertised for a new Community Champion. Knowing how much she enjoyed working with people, she jumped at the chance to fill the role, which involves managing Morrisons’ donations to food banks, organising the store’s unsold food and in-store donation cage. She also fundraises for partner and local charities.
She said: “It’s a huge focus right now. Morrisons has put £10 million into their food banks, and every week I get a pallet of food and hygiene products that I delegate.
“I also book in groups and ask them what they desperately need – like sanitary items, or toothpaste – and I bag them up for customers to buy and donate. It helps get that direct need met.
“I’ve really had the freedom to make the role my own and every day is completely different. It’s really great, but it is emotional too, you have to be quite strong.
“Some of the things you see and hear are heart breaking, it’s so hard for everyone right now. I’ve never experienced these kinds of struggles, so it’s so nice to give back when I feel I’ve had so much.”
Tilley’s love for volunteering was sparked in the second year of her degree, when she went to India with DMU Square Mile and DMU alumni-founded dance company Moving Together.
“That was the best thing I ever did. Before we went, we were told ‘it will change your life’ and I thought ‘I’ll be the judge of that!’” she said.
“But I got there, and I realised they were right. It was completely uplifting to be around people who were so grateful for what they had. It was the most humbling experience ever, and changed my outlook on life completely.
“Volunteering has massively changed my mindset. I am much better at responding and being an active listener. It’s opened my eyes to so many avenues, and made me think that I’d like to start a charity.”
From fundraising through a six-hour row ‘to the North Pole’, to plans to climb Ben Nevis, Tilly said helping others has opened up new experiences for her too.
She said: “If there hadn’t been a pandemic I would still be working in dance. But I would never have experienced this. Everything I’ve gained, and the people I’ve met - it’s been brilliant. I’m excited to see what we can achieve when things open up.”
Posted on Thursday 13th May 2021