Tag Archives: Volunteering

“Loneliness tore me apart, but volunteering has given me a purpose”

On this year’s International Volunteer Day, Lisa, a volunteer with an adventurous spirit, talks about how volunteering has helped her to gain confidence and independence.

I was a busy working mum with a mortgage, a job in catering, and a love of the outdoors. I also regularly volunteered as a Beaver Leader at a local Scout Group. Then in 2007, I was diagnosed with a condition called Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction. It affects the joints in my pelvis and makes it difficult for me to stand and walk.

Life took a turn for the worst

My job at the time was very physical; I worked in a school kitchen, so was constantly lifting and moving around. I tried to make it work after I became ill; my employers were understanding and made adaptions for me. During the day I was working hard to provide balanced meals for children, but was too tired to cook a proper meal for my son in the evenings. I knew something had to give, and reluctantly handed in my notice.

During this time, my health continued to deteriorate, I was in constant pain, and was eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia. My house was about to be re-possessed, and my doctor advised that I should give up my home as I was too ill to fight it. On top of this, I was having fits and muscle spasms, and eventually found out I had a spinal condition too. I really missed the mental stimulation of work, and the loneliness of being at home all day was tearing me apart.

Volunteering kept me going…

However, the one thing that kept me going was volunteering with the Scouts. I wasn’t able to continue as a leader, but I agreed to take on a new challenge and manage the administration for Scouting in my county. All I needed was my laptop, Wi-Fi and a phone to enable me to carry on volunteering. As I progressed in the role, my confidence grew, and I started thinking about a new challenge.

Despite my health issues, I’d still always made sure I took part in other volunteering events with the Scouts, such as camps and activity days. They were a great way to catch up with friends and helped me to keep active. In January 2015, I decided to take myself out of my comfort zone and be spontaneous. After hearing about a project at the Scout headquarters in London that needed extra pairs of hands, a friend and I packed a bag and drove through the night to get there. My son was a young man by now, and assured me he was happy to stay with family, and that he wanted me to have an adventure. We were welcomed with open arms, and spent an amazing two weeks mucking in and working with volunteer and staff colleagues.

Disabled woman in wheelchair with a colleague
Lisa with a colleague from the Scouts

I was exhausted after my little adventure; I’d taken time out from my volunteering to rest while I was there, but it still took a while for me to recuperate at home. I’d made some new friends while I was in London, and was thrilled when one of them invited me to come back in the summer for a new project. A Scout Jamboree was happening in Japan, and they needed volunteers in the UK to help support the event and share stories across local media. Despite being apprehensive, as I wouldn’t have a friend from home with me this time, I decided to go for it. It was challenging at times, there were moments when I questioned whether I was well enough to do it, but I stuck it out and managed 16 nights in a tent.

After this, an idea began to develop and I couldn’t ignore it. Since becoming disabled, my confidence had taken a real knock. I used to think I couldn’t do certain things because of my condition. However, volunteering helped me to realise that there are still a lot of things I can do. A plan took shape and I decided that 2016 was to be my year of volunteering adventures.

My volunteering adventures

This year I have travelled the length and breadth of the country, and beyond, undertaking different volunteering projects, making new friends, and challenging myself. I’ve been abroad for the first time since I became disabled. I’ve directed traffic from my wheelchair. I’ve become a member of a camp site volunteer team in Ireland. I’ve been to a festival. I’ve danced at a wedding. I’ve inspired a friend to do a bucket list trip of her own, and many more once in a lifetime experiences.

Of course, it hasn’t all been plain sailing and there have been trials along the way. At times I felt as if I’d bitten off more than I could chew. There have been tears. Some days I could barely lift my head from my pillow. Lots of rest and recuperation were needed after each event, but I have no regrets.

disabled woman having fun with arms out wide
Lisa having fun and enjoying life.

What volunteering did for me

Volunteering has given me a focus ever since I became disabled. It has given me a reason to leave the house. When I’m having a bad day, it helps to give me a sense of purpose and to turn things around. Being disabled isn’t easy, but you can’t give up. Volunteering gives you a reason to get up in the morning, and can open so many doors for you. A few years ago I never would have dreamed I could have done all this, but volunteering and being a Scout has helped me achieve so much.

If you’re feeling inspired by Lisa’s story, take a look at the volunteering opportunities available with Scope and the Scouts. Or find other volunteering opportunities in your local area by searching on Do-it.org.

“Managing volunteers is the best part of my job!”

Tina Taylor is a Volunteer Coordinator for Scope’s Face to Face befriending programme in Halton in the North West. Jo Smyth is a Volunteer Coordinator in the Scope Retail Admin Team in London.

For this year’s International Volunteer Managers Day, we chatted to them about why they love working with Scope volunteers, and give us their top tips for effective volunteer management.

Tina Taylor

Volunteer manager for Face 2 Face Halton
Tina Volunteer Manager for Halton Face 2 Face

I originally got involved with Scope as a volunteer myself. I have a son with Asperger’s Syndrome and wanted to do something to help me get out and about. I was also doing a degree in counselling at the time and befriending other parents of disabled children fitted in well with my existing commitments and interests.

Volunteering with Scope helped me to find a job working with disabled young people in my local area. Once the project came to an end, I was looking for other opportunities and came across the Face to Face role with Scope. I felt that the role was made for me, so decided to go for it, and got the job!

As a Volunteer Coordinator, I organise the befriending programme for parents of disabled children in Halton. All of my befrienders are volunteers, and I’ve got almost 16 volunteering with me at present. Often parents who are being befriended get so much out of it that they volunteer to become befrienders afterwards.

I love working with volunteers and matching up new befrienders with parents of disabled children who need support. It’s really satisfying to see the volunteers enjoying their befriending, and the parents get so much out of it too. Being a volunteer manager is very fulfilling. Getting to see my volunteers’ confidence build has been great and my team has really gelled.

Jo Smyth

head and sholders of woman in park
Jo Volunteer Manager for Scope

I started working for Scope at the beginning of 2016 in the Retail Admin Team. We support Scope’s chain of 230 retail shops and ensure they have the tools and resources required to run effectively.

I have a personal connection to disability and wanted to work for an organisation that is making the country a better place for disabled people. After a few months, I took on a new challenge and became the Volunteer Coordinator for my team.

I have managed volunteers before as part of a national project linked to the 2012 Olympics. In this role I worked with volunteer ambassadors who ran a series of maths and science challenge competitions in schools. I enjoyed this role and was keen to work with volunteers again.

In my team I currently have five volunteers. They’re all from different backgrounds and have different reasons why they chose to volunteer with Scope. I’m a real people person, so have loved getting to know my volunteers. Coaching them and seeing them develop and grow is a really rewarding part of my role. I like to give my volunteers the opportunity to take on additional responsibilities in a safe environment where they can ask questions and try things out. Being a volunteer manager is definitely the best part of my role.

If you’re a volunteer manager, or are looking to become a volunteer manager, here are some top tips from Tina and Jo on getting the best from your volunteers.

  1. Appreciate your volunteers and say thank you for all their hard work. We write thank you cards for volunteers for National Volunteers’ Week, and also organise thanks events and get-togethers throughout the year to show our gratitude.
  2. Value your volunteers’ time and commitment. They give up their time for free and are making a commitment to your organisation. It’s important to respect this, and to allow them to fit volunteering in around their existing commitments. For example, one of our volunteers has some ongoing health issues, so we agreed that she would take a step back from her volunteering activities for now.
  3. Give volunteers opportunities to grow and develop. We both make time to talk to our volunteers about personal development and highlight relevant opportunities to them.
  4. Use coaching skills to get to know your volunteers and to help them work through any issues they may have. Coaching some of our volunteers has helped to work out what their next steps might be for them, such as looking for employment, or taking on a new project.
  5. Be organised! I (Tina) have quite a large volunteer team and I need to keep track of when and where they are doing their befriending. I use my diary to do this, which ensures that I know when my volunteers should be checking in with me, and helps to keep them safe. Being organised helps me (Jo) to keep a note of my volunteers’ birthdays and to make sure I have a card ready for them!

If you’re feeling inspired by Tina and Jo, take a look at our volunteering opportunities.

Find out more about International Volunteer Managers Day.

“You never have a bad day at Scope!” – National Volunteers’ Week

Volunteering with Scope led to an unexpected change of career for Lisa. As we conclude our celebrations for National Volunteers’ Week, she talks about what it’s like to be a Scope volunteer and how it changed her life.

What inspired you to become a Scope volunteer?

I was originally a customer at the Scope shop in Lincoln and was asked if I was interested in becoming a volunteer. I wanted to help with the window displays, so decided to get involved. I was nervous as I hadn’t worked in a retail environment before, but the existing volunteers were really friendly and quickly showed me the ropes.

After a little while a vacancy came up in the shop, and I took on a paid role as a Sunday manager. This progressed to me taking on extra responsibilities and around two years ago I became the shop manager.

A shop window display

How have your experiences at Scope changed your life?

I thought my career was heading in a particular direction, but both my area manager and the team at the shop encouraged me to apply for the shop manager role. That gave me the confidence to really go for it. My team are lovely and have been very supportive. They really helped me when I started in my role.

Five years ago, I would never have imagined myself doing this job, but this change has been really good for me. Volunteering at Scope helped to improve my confidence and changed my career path for the better. I’ve had an amazing experience at Scope, I don’t want it to end!

What’s been the most memorable moment of your time with Scope?

I have one almost every day! My team likes to have fun and we do things that are a bit different. For example, we took over the local museum and held a fashion show there.

The volunteers I work with are amazing. In the last couple of years, we’ve helped nearly 30 of our volunteers get in to work. We support them through their training, give them time and support, they even do mock interviews with each other during their breaks. Some local shops now come to us directly when they’re looking for new staff as they know how well we train and support our volunteers.

Scope means a lot to me and I love what I do. It’s such a positive place, you never have a bad day at Scope!

Would you recommend volunteering with Scope to others?

Definitely yes! We’re all about encouraging and supporting our volunteers, and getting them to achieve their ambitions. Volunteering with Scope gives you confidence. We’re like a family and we’re always there for each other.

Fancy giving it a go? Are you interested in becoming a Scope volunteer? More information on volunteering with Scope, and ways in which you can get involved, can be found on our volunteering pages.

“Being a consultant for Rio 2016 was an amazing experience” Emily, the accessibility consultant

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Emily Yates is an accessibility consultant, travel writer, presenter and freelance disability awareness trainer.

For 30 Under 30, we chatted to her about her involvement in making Rio 2016 more accessible for all, and her hopes for the legacy of the Games.

My passion for travel and accessibility started when I volunteered at the London 2012 Games as a Games Maker. I was invited to a press conference and Seb Coe happened to be sat next to me. I said that the Paralympics had “lifted the cloud of limitation for people with disabilities” and he re-quoted that in his closing ceremony speech. I thought to myself “Wow, if there’s ever been an opportunity this is it!”

So I called his office to ask if he could spare 15 minutes of his time and he very kindly said yes, and gave me so many contacts. I managed to get a meeting with the British Consulate in Rio, and with some Brazilian NGOs. This was back in November of 2013, and Rio was nowhere near ready for the Games at that point, but I so desperately wanted to work towards writing an accessible travel guide to 2016 and beyond.

Being an accessibility consultant for Rio was an amazing experience

Whilst out there, I was invited to a large meeting, run by the organising committee, to give a presentation on my experiences as a volunteer but also as a disabled person. There were members of staff there, volunteers, secretaries of state, ministers for people with disabilities; it was pretty nerve-wracking! A man called Vivaldo Rangel also attended to represent MetroRio – Rio’s equivalent to our Transport for London – and after my presentation he invited me to work as an accessibility consultant for them in the lead up to the Games.  He ended up changing my life and I have so much to thank him for.

I worked with MetroRio for nine months, advising on everything from installing and modernising elevators, to equipment for those with visual and hearing impairments, bilingual signage and step-free access for those with disabilities, parents with small children and the elderly. I worked with architects to plan the layout for the new metro stations leading to the Olympic Park, but I don’t know if they’ll be finished in time which is a real shame. Vivaldo and I also trained some of the MetroRio staff in disability awareness (in an interactive and bilingual session!).  It was really a truly wonderful job to have, and I have so many fond memories of my time there.

Emily under water, snorkelling

Writing an accessible travel guide with Lonely Planet

After my consultancy work I got in touch with Lonely Planet and asked if they’d thought about writing an accessible travel guide to the Rio 2016 Games. After some crazy email conversations with their accessibility manager, Martin Heng, I’ve just been out to Rio and written it, and it will be out in the next couple of months – how exciting! It’s what you’d expect from a ‘normal’ travel guide, but also has plenty of accessibility advice regarding places to eat, party and sleep, as well as the big tourist hotspots like Christ the Redeemer and Sugarloaf.  Fingers crossed it’s really useful to all who use it!

The guide is being distributed free of charge so anybody can download it as an e-book. The International Paralympic Committee have also endorsed it so we’re printing 2,500 copies for them to give to athletes and their families. My ultimate dream would be that it really changes things for disabled locals as well.

Researching for the guide was a real eye-opener

Writing the guide was a really good learning experience for me as both a writer and a wheelchair user, as I slowly felt myself experiencing Rio as a local, rather than a tourist.  At MetroRio, I’d got taxis or the underground to work, spent a lot of time in the office or advising in stations with Vivaldo, and then I’d gone to my apartment to sunbathe, go out with friends or sleep! Travel writing is an incredible job, and it was a very different experience to the one I’d had with MetroRio. 

Firstly, I was alone, and whilst I was reviewing some amazingly accessible attractions and museums, I was also spending so much time trying to navigate Rio’s layout and districts, some of which are so different to the pretty inclusive Zona Sul, or South Zone, that most tourists stay in and I knew so well. It did open my eyes to how difficult travel can be if you have a disability, especially if you are living in Rio and have to navigate similar things on a daily basis, rather than for a two week holiday.

What’s really special is that my time writing for Lonely Planet has really changed my own perceptions of my own limitations and capabilities.  When it comes to large curbs and flights of stairs, I’m pretty useless, but I’m now great at asking a local for help in Portuguese! I feel that I have a duty to make sure whatever I’m doing is always helping to change the perceptions of others, too. It’s really important that disability has positive representation wherever possible, especially as this may be the only experience of disability the new people I meet might have had!

Emily being pulled on a mat in the sea, on a sunny beach

Why representation is so important

The Olympics and the Paralympics are so well publicised on a global scale. The more positive stories and anecdotes about disability and access that surround major events like these, the more likely it is that other businesses and companies at home and abroad will take notice.

I hope that CEOs of businesses watch the Games and start thinking about how many disabled people they’re employing and whether their workplace is accessible.  This might be a ‘big ask’, but I’d also like to think that politicians will watch and remind themselves that what they need to be doing is ensuring that disabled people have enough support, equipment and resources to continue reaching their potential, be that in sports or other fields(!)

Advice for anyone with a disability going to Rio and the Games

First and foremost, remember that Rio is not the UK, and that patience will have to be exercised around accessibility, however annoying that may be.  Anyone going to the Games will find that Brazilian people are ridiculously warm and friendly; you’ll never be waiting for more than thirty seconds for a bit of assistance!

By reading the Lonely Planet guide, contacting people ‘in the know’ and doing a bit of planning and preparation, you’ll be able to have a really amazing time. Book any flights and accommodation now, as time is running out and prices are soaring!

Emily is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.

National Volunteers’ Week – “Don’t hesitate to get involved”

Amina has recently started volunteering for Scope as a Face 2 Face parent befriender in East London. As part of our celebrations for National Volunteers’ Week, she talks about the best bits of being a volunteer and why anyone thinking about volunteering with Scope should go for it.

What do you do in your role as a Face 2 Face befriender?

As a new Face 2 Face parent befriender, I have recently befriended a parent of a disabled child. I did training for around eight weeks, and then was matched with my befriendee soon afterwards. We’ve been meeting up to talk once a week for the last six weeks. If we can’t meet up for any reason, we’ll talk on the phone, or by text message. I make sure I keep in touch with her to find out how she’s doing and to make sure she’s got someone she can talk to.

Amina, a woman smiling for the cameraWhat inspired you to get involved with Scope as a volunteer?

I heard about the Face 2 Face befriending scheme that was happening in my area and I thought it sounded really interesting. I thought it would be nice to give my time and to share my own experiences as a parent of a disabled child. I wanted to help other people in the same situation as me. I hadn’t done anything like this before, and I wanted to try something completely new and to do something useful.

What have been the highlights of your time as a volunteer so far?

It has been a really rewarding experience. The first highlight has been meeting my befriendee, she’s lovely. It’s been nice meeting her and to feel like I’m doing something to help her. The other big highlight was meeting my fellow parent befrienders. We did our befriending training at the same time and are all still in touch. The training was fun, everyone there had similar experiences to me, and we just ended up getting on really well. We support each other, we share tips and advice, and it’s just a good way of supporting each other and getting to know other befrienders. It’s been great.

What would you say to anyone who’s considering volunteering with Scope?

Don’t hesitate to get involved. You really will get a lot out of it. It feels great knowing that you can use your own experiences to help others in the same situation. Throughout your role, you get a lot of support from Scope, and from other volunteers. I just want to say, don’t hesitate to do it!

Feeling inspired?

Are you interested in becoming a Scope volunteer like Amina? More information on volunteering with Scope, and ways in which you can get involved, can be found on our volunteering pages.

Find out more information about Scope’s befriending and mentoring services

“Be a bit brave, take part and go for it.” Jack, the volunteering star

30 under 30 logo

This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

This Volunteers’ Week, we spoke to one of our volunteering and Scope for Change stars, Jack Welch, who gives much of his time to a number of different charities.

As part of 30 Under 30, he talks about how volunteering has benefited him. Several of the organisations he has volunteered for have also sent in some glowing testimonials.

Volunteering is a way to explore new opportunities and different ways of working. You can also meet new people and develop your networks. It’s the variety that’s always the most exciting!

I think there is a lot out there for people to get stuck into. Volunteering for charities doesn’t just mean volunteering in a charity shop – there are loads of different things you can do.

For me, volunteering has helped me to build on social skills, communicate with others and be a bit more independent. You really develop that over time. Although it’s volunteering, there’s an expectation of having a skillset that you need to commit yourself to.

Jack, a young disabled man, smiles and talks to a room

It gave me the opportunity to move away from some of the troubles I had at secondary school. I’m not as anxious as I used to be. It’s been great to have a bit more independence away from home and the family. I’ve really expanded and broadened my networks beyond the safety of my closest relatives.

It’s really changed me. Five or six years ago, the thought of using public transport would have terrified me but now it’s just second nature. I travel quite a lot for my volunteering.

For someone thinking about volunteering, I would say go for it. If you spot something that might develop your skill set, help you move into employment or meet new people, get involved!

Be a bit brave, take part and go for it.

Testimonials for Jack

Jack has left a lasting impression at all of the charities and organisations he has worked for.  Below are just a handful of the glowing testimonials given to us by some of these organisations.

Jessica Benham, Outreach Officer for Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

“Jack has been working with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for four years. He has attended workshops, engaged with Holocaust survivors and raised awareness about the Holocaust and subsequent genocides amongst his peers. Jack has been an exceptional member of the Youth Champion Board, contributing to the development of the Youth Champion programme to ensure that people aged 14-24 are empowered to hold their own activities for Holocaust Memorial Day.”

Find out more about Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

Dave Thompson, the Director of Dorset Youth Association

“We first met Jack many years ago as a quiet and shy young man.

Through the years we have seen him develop and grow as he has become involved in more and more community projects. Jack was heavily involved in our Young Remembers project which looked at the History of Dorset Youth Association (DYA) over 70 years. Jack and his peers were so passionate about their heritage and wished to continue to meet as a group to volunteer. Therefore staff at DYA attracted new monies to support the group in a major fundraising initiative. This investment attracted almost £40,000 and led to a new youth led project Walking in their Shoes.

Jack is always polite and pleased to volunteer his time to help others.”

Find out more about Dorset Youth Association.

Amber DeRosa, Participation Officer at the National Children’s Bureau

“Jack has been an active member of Young National Children’s Bureau (YNCB) since 2015. During this time, he has been actively engaged in a range of activities and events including speaking at conferences, debates and meetings, campaigning work and taking part in various discussion groups and consultations.

Jack is a delightful young person to work with. He continually makes valued and thoughtful contributions to NCB’s various programmes of work and through this he genuinely makes a big difference to the lives of other children and young people. He is hugely reliable and very dedicated to the activities which he volunteers to be a part of and is extremely popular across all of NCB!”

Find out more about National Children’s Bureau.

Harris Lorie, Programme Manager for Spirit of 2012

“Jack has been a highly committed and valued member of Spirit of 2012’s Youth Advisory Panel (YAP). His contributions in our meetings are measured and thoughtful, drawing on a wide range of experience. He has assessed grant applications sensitively, impressing both other YAP members and the Spirit staff team. Jack volunteers enthusiastically for opportunities that come up, be that visits to our projects or attending a national gathering of youth panels. He always represents Spirit professionally, and creates great communications material for us as well. Thank you Jack!”

Find out more about Spirit of 2012.

Jack, a young disabled man, stands next to a banner which says "Volunteering matters to young people. 96% of volunteers feel better prepared for employment"

Jack is sharing his story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Catch up on all the stories so far on our 30 Under 30 page.

If you’ve been inspired by Jack, take a look at our volunteering opportunities.

Cheer on our runners in the London Marathon

Come and volunteer with our events team at the London Marathon on Sunday 24 April and join our cheer spots along the route. You’ll be helping keep our 120 Scope runners motivated to keep going! 

Our main cheer spot will be near St George’s Gardens (102-106 The Highway, Shadwell, E1W 2BU), where runners will pass by at miles 13.5 and loop back around so you will see them again at mile 21.5. We will have cheer equipment, t-shirts and drumming facilitators so you can create some groovy rhythms and support our fundraisers on this incredible challenge. Cheering really does make a difference to our fundraisers and we pride ourselves on being one of the largest and fun cheer squads on the route!A screenshot of the google map showing the cheer spot location

We also have a cheer spot at mile 25 next to Embankment tube station, so you can help the runners along their final stretch to the finish line.

We hope to see you there! If you have any questions, email events@scope.org.uk 

Leap for Scope with your extra day

As it’s a leap year, on Monday 29 February we’ll have an extra day in 2016. Why not do good and feel good and give that time back to Scope?

Take a look at the fun ways you can get involved.

Bake a difference

Hold a cake stall at your workplace, school or local club and donate the proceeds to Scope. If you email us your name and address we’ll even send you a cookie cutter!

Find out how your baking can make a difference.

Help out in one of our shops

A volunteer in a Scope shop

Volunteering can help boost your skills and confidence, improve your CV and is a great opportunity to socialise with other volunteers and our fantastic retail staff. We’ll give you all the support and training you need, and there will be plenty of cups of tea!

Find out more about volunteering in our shops.

A cyclist raising money for Scope

Take on a challenge with one of our events

Running, swimming, cycling or trekking, we have events for everyone. A great way to get in shape, meet new people and raise money for a rewarding charity. Our events are inclusive, fun and unforgettable.

Find your perfect challenge event.

Help to stock our shops

Time to think about your next spring clean? With that in mind, please think about taking your unwanted clothes, shoes, textiles and home ware to any local Scope shop . Every bag you donate raises about £20 to fund our vital work for disabled people and their families.

Find your nearest Scope shop.

Need more ideas? Visit the our website for other ways to get involved.

Celebrating First Impressions, First Experiences at the Barbican Conservatory

On Monday night, we were pleased to welcome back 22 alumni from the First Impressions, First Experiences pre-employment training programme for a celebration event at the Barbican Conservatory.

Held in the beautiful tropical garden that is situated in the heart of the concrete jungle of the Barbican Centre, guests were welcomed to enjoy drinks and an assortment of canapés amongst the tropical flowers and trailing plants, under the huge glass roof of the conservatory.

The programme, which for the last four years has been funded by the Credit Suisse EMEA Foundation, was devised to support young disabled people who were not currently in employment, education or training. These young people were provided with a structured programme followed by additional weeks of tailored, one-to-one support. The aim was to increase their confidence and independence and help them to develop important skills to make life-changing career decisions, ensuring that they left the programme feeling career-ready.

The secret garden party was a way to celebrate the success of the programme, and highlight some key achievements that the young people have made.
We were so pleased to be joined by Michelle Mendelsson, a Trustee of the Credit Suisse EMEA Foundation, who welcomed guests, spoke about the success of the programme and seeing such brilliant results, such as the fact that 74% of young people are moving or have moved into work, further training and volunteering.

Comedian Alex Brooker spoke to the audience in his first ever appearance as a Scope Ambassador, and shared the importance, as he saw it, of building confidence in young disabled people, and the amazing way that the project had achieved this. He then introduced the two key speakers on the evening, Taylor and Felix, two young people who went through the programme, and whom Alex Brooker has since been mentoring in public speaking in preparation for the event.

It was truly inspirational to hear them speak about how the programme has affected their lives – Taylor spoke about the way that the programme had helped her get voluntary work at the Together! 2014 Disability Film Festival, and pursue her dream of working in film and television, while Felix shared the importance that the sense of community created by First Impressions, First Experiences has brought to him and his peers.

At the end of the evening, the young people collected a goody-bag of treats including notebooks, pens and a book on interview techniques, ‘Why You?’ by James Reed, kindly donated by the author.

Thank you so much to the Credit Suisse EMEA foundation for not only hosting and funding the event which gave the young people a chance to come together again, but also for supporting the programme over the last four years, which has successfully seen 101 participants through its doors. With the help of programmes such as this, Scope can get closer to seeing the employment gap halved by 2020.

“I know my contribution is valuable to Scope.”

Ending our celebration of Volunteers’ Week, we talk to Mary Walsh who volunteers in Scope’s head office on Market Road. She enjoys working on specific projects and focusing all her attention on building a better, and more inclusive environment.

I love volunteering at Scope because I feel like I’m giving some value to Scope and gaining something valuable myself at the same time.

I was made redundant after working for one company for most of my life. I was relieved at being out of a high pressure environment and excited about finding something new. It gave me time to look after my parents, but I was also nervous about my uncertain future. I also surprised since I enjoyed my job and planned on staying until I retired.

When I started applying for jobs, I realised so much had changed. It was 30 years since I applied for job and now everything was online and automated. Nothing was the same. Some companies wanted a CV and a covering letter, others wanted a detailed application. And after my effort I might just get a short email response and nothing else. It felt so strange and cold.

While I was searching, I found that Scope was looking for volunteers with my specialist skills, so I applied. While I found another job, volunteering with Scope allows me to keep my speciality skills as a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist up to date.

I volunteer one day a week as a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist with Scope’s Human Resources team on a project to ensure Scope is an exemplar employer of disabled people. Details about our newest project will come soon.

I love volunteering at Scope because I can make progress every day working on one project. I spend a day brainstorming, then writing the project plan, then getting feedback, and so on. I know my contribution is a real assistance and it does personally provide me with great experience to add to my CV, and it’s great to work with the team.

Tell us about your volunteering experiences … where have you volunteered in the past or now? What makes volunteering enjoyable for you? Share your volunteering tales on the community.