A group of people meeting the queen - scan of older photo

For Volunteers’ Week and to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, we asked our Grandmentors Warwickshire Engagement Manager, Farzana Topia, to share one of her most treasured memories as a volunteer.

This year we celebrate Volunteering Matters’  60th Birthday, marking another milestone for this fabulous charity that is always making a difference through the power of volunteering. For many, this is an exciting moment to celebrate and showcase our achievements throughout the past 10 years. For me, it’s extra special, as not only did I start my journey in charity work when Volunteering Matters was formerly known as CSV, but I was also present 10 years ago for their 50th birthday milestone. And what a memorable day that was.

In 2011, when I came back from my 3 months Full-Time Volunteering expedition from Slovakia, I decided to go back in to retail work, but I needed some volunteering on my CV to help me get my career back on track with a charity. I came across the RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme) project in Coventry and signed up. I still remember when I went in to meet the manager feeling anxious she would reject me as I didn’t fit the age criteria. Thankfully she saw my enthusiasm to support and with my successful experience volunteering on CSV’s Agents4Change project she took me on as a supporting volunteer carrying out ad-hoc admin tasks and supporting her with meetings, events, and photography. Side note: This is how I found out my weakness was admin and I was rubbish at photography! Haha!

Come 2012 I was told that CSV were celebrating their 50th birthday, and to mark this special occasion, CSV were holding an exclusive event the following year at St. James’s Palace, where volunteers will be selected to meet Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. Only a handful of individuals were chosen from each project from CSV, and I was one of those! You can imagine my excitement, yet at the same time, I was also nervous. I’ve never been to St. James’s Palace, let alone meet the Queen!

As the event date came closer, I received a beautiful invitation card formally inviting me to the event, along with a pass to enter St. James’s. I remember telling my colleagues in retail and my family and friends about it. We were researching how to do the curtsy, what we can and can’t say etc. It was an exciting moment. And then the moment came…

On 12th July, I still remember it was a very hot summer’s day. As I and my fellow volunteers went through all the security checks and entered the building, we were greeted with canapes and champagne flutes. I picked up an orange juice and some canapes on a plate and made my way round to meet people. It was so lovely meeting other volunteers from different projects and listening to their stories and experiences. I also saw familiar faces whom I hadn’t seen in a long time but didn’t realise they volunteered for the same organisation! It’s a small world we live in.

Suddenly, the huge double doors on both sides of the room we were in were shut and we were told that the Queen had entered the building and is making her way round to each room. My fellow volunteers and I were asked to stand in one line near a double door. As the door opened, the Queen walked in with her army of security, photographer, and a few others. She shook each person’s hand with her soft cotton gloved hand, as we responded with a curtsy or bow and ‘Your Majesty’. She then started asking each volunteer how long they’ve been there and what they did as a volunteer on the project. Despite being a hot summer and everyone feeling sweaty (and nervous!), Her Majesty didn’t have a single bead of sweat on her face. I was impressed by her calm composure and her ability to glide across the room meeting everyone effortlessly without feeling the need to rush.

Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to ask her questions, and we’re only allowed to speak when spoken to. I am therefore still stuck on one question; what foundation does she wear that didn’t make her sweat at all?! Must have been high-tech!

To date, I still go on about ‘the day I met the Queen’. And I still speak to people who volunteered with me at RSVP back then. I can’t thank Volunteering Matters (formerly CSV) enough for thanking me for my hard work as a volunteer, by rewarding me with such a beautiful and memorable evening of my life. It made me realise the importance of recognizing and thanking volunteers properly. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, but even a simple heartfelt thank you goes a long way in helping to recognise and retain the heartbeat of Volunteering Matters. Here’s to another 10 years 😊

Do you have a memory of volunteering for Volunteering Matters (previously CSV)? We’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with our Communications Team.