Mark, 48, from Darlington volunteers at the Tees Cottage Pumping Station at Broken Scar.

He goes to the pumping station once a week to look after the garden and do general maintenance, as well as lending a hand on open weekends.

Mark, who is a joiner by trade, was introduced to volunteering after being referred to the programme by the Job Centre.

He said: “I had been out of work for some time when I was referred to Step Forward Tees Valley. We talked about my interests and skills and they put me in touch with the pumping station. I volunteer with a great bunch of people and it’s good to feel part of something. I am learning about the history and how the engine works, I like talking to people passing on what I have learned and learning from them.

“It’s good to be doing something useful and worthwhile - looking for a job every day can be disheartening when there’s not much out there for people with my skills.

“I want to stay at the pumping station as long as I can. I hope if I do find work I can still find time to volunteer, if not here then somewhere else. I see volunteering as a first step to getting back into work. I have health problems so I wasn’t sure what work I could do but this has shown me that I can work and getting this experience will look good on my CV. I know now I would like to do something that involves interacting with people, even if it’s another voluntary role.

“It is definitely worth getting in touch with Step Forward Tees Valley and finding out what they can do for you and I would recommend volunteering to anyone. If you can find the right opportunity to match your skills it’s great.”

Read more about volunteering here.

FUNDED BY THE EUROPEAN SOCIAL FUND AND THE NATIONAL LOTTERY COMMUNITY FUND