Volunteering changed my life

Scope supports the DIAL Network, an independent network of local disability information and advice services, run by and for disabled people.

Every year the DIAL Network helps over a quarter of a million disabled people.  A volunteer tells how she was helped by Disability Equality North West (DENW).

Disability Equality North West LogoIf I’m honest, I’d never considered being a volunteer.

I’d always been in paid work and that’s what I did. But, as my condition started to get worse, it made it harder to commit to long and strenuous hours of work. My eyesight was getting worse and I was getting very wobbly on my legs. I stopped work and this left me with a lot of time to think and I ended up being quite down. I struggled to find the motivation to fill in application forms for work. I’d been attending some sessions through the job centre to help me back into work and one of the advisors suggested volunteering. I wasn’t totally sure but it certainly didn’t sound as heavy and stressful as finding paid work. I was then introduced to DENW.

Whilst looking for work, I had been considering a role that didn’t require me to stand up for long periods of time because of my mobility issues. I met with staff at DENW and they said there was a role updating a database on the computer. This was something I’d never done before, so I was worried. However, the staff reassured me, saying that I didn’t need experience as they would support and train me to learn the role. During the time I volunteered in this role, staff gave me every encouragement and there was a good friendly atmosphere. I started to get more confident on the computer and I have learned this new skill. Outside of DENW, I made contact with my local tenant’s group and my new confidence helped me get involved with them. This led to me eventually taking on the role of vice chair of the management group there.

The data input role came to an end later in the year and fortunately I was offered support to find an alternative volunteer role elsewhere. I am really interested in history, reading and improving my mind. I regularly visit the local museum to look round and see all the history of the city. While talking through my options, I found out that I could be a volunteer with the museum – showing people around, talking to people about exhibitions, visiting schools or organisations to do talks. This was all very appealing to me and I opted to follow this through. The volunteering co-ordinator helped me to fill in the forms and went to an informal interview with me at the museum. He helped as a link with the museum staff and provided a reference.

I have now recently completed an induction with the museum and have started some volunteering sessions. One session I really enjoyed was a reminiscence session. Volunteers had to bring in an old item – I brought in an old handbag – and talk through where it was from and the sentimental value. This drew in a lot of interest from visitors to the museum and was a very enjoyable afternoon.

Since volunteering with the museum, I have also been offered a volunteer befriender role with Age Concern, visiting an older person in their home, to offer some company, tea and a chat. It seems a while ago now when I first thought about volunteering. Yet I have experienced so much, done lots of new things, made some new friends and despite my personal impairments, my enthusiasm and commitment to volunteering remain strong.

Find out more about Disability Equality North West or see some more information about volunteering.