My volunteering experience: Mike Barnett’s story

Mike Barnett is a volunteer with Portsmouth Carers Centre, which provides support and advice to carers in Portsmouth. He also volunteers at Chop Cook Chat, a cookery group for men aged 50 and above who have a want or need to learn how to cook.

Here, Mike talks about his experience of volunteering with these groups and why he enjoys it so much.

How long have you been a volunteer and how did you get involved?

I volunteer at the men’s cookery group Cook Chop Chat and I also help at the Carers Centre and Community allotment with the Carers Break activities. I’ve been a volunteer with these groups for the past three years, usually for seven – ten hours per week.

I heard about Chop Cook Chat from a friend, and I thought that with my 25 years of professional experience in catering I could put my skills to good use by volunteering with the group – although you don’t need to have any experience in catering to volunteer at Chop Cook Chat.

What do you enjoy about volunteering?

When I’m at a Chop Cook Chat group, I like to encourage and enthuse the gentlemen who attend to learn the joys of healthy home cooking, and I try to pass on helpful skills and tips.  During the COVID restrictions I also helped with look and cook, which involved delivering food and shopping with recipes for healthy home-cooked meals.

I really like watching the gentlemen’s cookery skills develop – it’s very rewarding to see how you have helped someone.

Some of the gentlemen who attend Chop Cook Chat gain a lot from the social interaction with other people that comes from going along to the group sessions, and that’s the same for me too. I really enjoy meeting new people and I’ve made friends through my volunteering roles.

What would you say to anyone thinking about volunteering?

I would say to others who are thinking about volunteering to give it a go for a few sessions before you decide if you would like to volunteer on a regular basis.  The first time you go along to a group it can feel a bit daunting, but if you try a few sessions you can get to know the people and how things work, and then you can decide if you would like to continue as a volunteer.

You do need to be flexible to help where needed, and you should also be reliable, as if you have committed to helping others will be relying on you to come along.


If you would like to find out more about being part of Chop Cook Chat, or if you are interested in volunteering to help support these sessions, contact Jayne Gentle via  or 023 9284 1762.

If you would like to find out more about the Carers Centre, their details are below:

Telephone number – 023 9285 1864

E-mail –

Visit – for regular updates on the Carers Centre’s latest activities and events.