Tag Archives: Volunteering

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.

“We’re all part of a community, both on and offline.”

Continuing our celebration of Volunteers’ Week, we talk to Niki Michael who volunteers for Scope’s online community. Niki is mum to 10-year old Maria, who has Dystonic Quadraplegia, as well as two younger children, aged 7 and 5. Here she talks about what motivates her to volunteer and why she enjoys it.

When my daughter was first diagnosed, the Scope forum – as it was then – was a great source of information and support for me. Ten years’ later, when I found out Scope was launching an online community, I wanted to be a part of it, as I felt might have something useful to give back.

Being a ‘community champion’ involves welcoming new members, keeping an eye on conversations that I might be able to contribute to and promoting the online community to people who may not be aware of it. I log in a couple of times a week, and reply to posts on topics ranging from education to medication. They’re always quite varied!

Niki and her daughter Maria

My daughter is about to go into a mainstream secondary school. She uses a wheelchair and a communication aid, so I’m happy to offer any insights I’ve gained through raising her and championing her rights.

We all have something to contribute

I think it’s really important for families of disabled children to look out for one another, support each other and impart their knowledge. Parents on the community understand completely the stresses and challenges of raising a child with complex needs.

For me, being able to support other parents is incredibly rewarding, and introducing new people to the community – knowing it will be a great resource for them – is great.

We don’t live in isolation, we are all part of a bigger community, both on and off line, and if we want that community to be more tolerant, compassionate and fair to disabled people, then we all have a responsibility to be part of changing it. Volunteering your time for something you feel passionate about is a great of doing that.

My experience as a community champion has shown me that collectively we are stronger , and we all have something valuable to contribute. The community is a really positive space. Even when someone is struggling, the responses from others are always solution-based, which is really important. When you ‘re having a bad day, having someone there to lift you up emotionally or with really solid advice may be just what you need.

You can see Niki in our online community here.

Meet our other community champions and find out more about Scope’s online community.

Celebrating Scope volunteers

Our charity shops and services are only run thanks to the generosity of our volunteers.

This week is Volunteer’s Week in the UK, and we’d like to show you the wide variety of volunteers we have, what brought them to Scope, and celebrate what they do.

A headshot of Caroline, our volunteer, smiling.Caroline

Caroline volunteers at our Huntingdon shop and has been with Scope for 13 long years. “I started as a 10 week placement, but I liked it so much that I never left,” she said. Caroline loves the variety volunteering can give her.

Sometimes she’s on the till and other times she’s in the back sorting and steaming. Caroline feels good to know the money raised by the shops is going to a good cause. “I’d volunteer more if the buses ran on Sunday!” she said. The best thing about working at Scope, Caroline says, is not only the people but that every day is a new day and you never know what might be coming.

Lucy smilingLucy

Lucy, a volunteer at the Welling shop, has been with Scope for just 7
months. She’d been to a few charity shops, but liked that Scope’s had a great atmosphere. She loves the relationships and the community she’s built in the shop.

Even though she just works Saturdays she still pops in on her off days to say hello. Lucy says if you’re thinking about volunteering you should. “Definitely do it. It will change your life… for the better, just so we’re clear!”.

Thornton smilingThornton

Thornton has been volunteering with Scope for 2 years when he started at 15. He now works at the Welling shop, sorting through stock and talking to customers.

“Before I volunteered I was very shy and would hardly talk to anyone and now I’m out there being loud and talking to people!”. Thornton had been turned away at other shops for being too young, but Scope’s shop and the manager were friendly and bubbly. He now enjoys checking out all of the interesting things people can donate. “We had a pantomime cow costume once and some dolls made of hair!”

We’re always looking for volunteers across different areas of Scope. If you’re interested in volunteering, fill out our volunteering form.

Enjoy live music? Why not join Gig Buddies!

It’s not always easy for music fans with learning disabilities to get out to gigs. But Gig Buddies, a volunteer project run by the charity Stay Up Late, is changing all that. Director and co-founder, Paul Richards explains how.

Gig Buddies was one of those ideas you assume someone must have already thought of. We were wondering if there was a way to make use of the spare seats in people’s cars as they travelled to gigs, and whether people with learning disabilities who love the same music could occupy those seats.

That would give people with learning disabilities an opportunity to, not only see live music but also extend their social networks beyond typical care settings.

It was an idea that developed, and we spent around a year laying the groundwork for the project before it launched in Jan 2013. We conducted some research to find out what the barriers were to people getting out. We found the reasons were things like having no money, being low in confidence, not being able to access public transport at night, not knowing what’s going on, and not having anyone to go with.

But what we also found was there was a real desire for people with learning disabilities to be getting out there.

What makes a good Gig Buddies volunteer?

We also thought about why people didn’t volunteer, and we decided it was largely because they didn’t have the time or didn’t know what to do. So the idea behind Gig Buddies was simple: it was about turning something people enjoyed doing into a volunteering opportunity.

There are really only two requirements: you have to be a nice person, and you have to have an interest.

We have volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds, with a diverse range of interests. While Gig Buddies started out being about live music, it’s now grown to include things like the theatre, nature walks, church and sport. The point is that participants are in control of choosing their ‘gig’, whatever that may be.

One of the key aspects of Gig Buddies is that it’s all about relationships. It’s about enabling socially isolated people to develop friendship circles, and we spend a lot of time meeting with everyone – participants and volunteers – to find out what their interests are.

We ask that every volunteer commits to at least one gig a month and also meets up for a coffee once a month with their buddy to plan the next trip. All our volunteers receive training and on-going support once they have been matched.

The other core principle of Gig Buddies is about enabling people with learning disabilities to make real choices about the way they lead their lives, and to pursue interests they enjoy in their local community. At Stay Up Late we often get asked why we don’t organise more events for people with learning disabilities. Our belief is that all events should be open to everyone, including people with learning disabilities. This is something that underpins our work.

What’s next for Gig Buddies?

We now have over 60 participants and 60 volunteers, and a full waiting list. We are committed to developing our project in Sussex.
However, we can’t run the project beyond Sussex, as its strength of relies on relationships. So we’re aiming to share it.

Our first pilot site is in Sydney, Australia – with ACL Disability Services – and it’s attracted a lot of excitement over there. Several other large cities also wanting to get involved. The second pilot site is in Midlothian, and being run by Thera Scotland.

The next step is to work with organisations who share the same ethos as us, and this year we’re planning to invite another 10 organisations to work with us and set up Gig Buddies in their locality.

There’s a lot more I could write about the project, but it’s probably best left to one of our participants, Bella to tell you about it. Bella has a mild learning disability, depression and anxiety. She has had a Gig Buddy for a year now, and has gone to lots of gigs.

Bella says: “Before I had a Gig Buddy, I felt like I was lost at the weekends. I had never been to a music gig before, but having a Gig Buddy has meant that I’ve discovered new music. It means that I can travel to Brighton, which I couldn’t do before. Once you start going out you are more able to do other things – it improves your confidence.”

For more information about Gig Buddies visit the Stay up Late websiteStay Up Late is a small Brighton based charity that promotes full and active social lives for people with learning disabilities.

Volunteering helped me get the job – #100days100stories

Lesley, 54, moved to South Wales a few years ago to be closer to family. She had spent 20 years out of work because of a repetitive strain injury. It was through her involvement with Scope that she gained the confidence and skills to secure a full time job. Here Lesley shares her story as part of Scope’s 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

The last time I worked was in 1993 for a social services department, caring for elderly people. I gave up work as I had repetitive strain injury (RSI) in my wrist.

I had always done some volunteering with local charities and when I moved to South Wales in 2012, I wanted to continue to do voluntary work.

I knew I wanted to work with vulnerable adults, probably in a caring or support worker role. It was through the return to work scheme I was on that I learnt about Scope. I asked if I could find out more information and I met with a Scope worker, Carol.

Volunteering with Scope

Carol and I agreed that I would go to her regular cinema activity and see how we got on. I really liked the group and they seemed to like me, so I started as a regular volunteer.

We would go for lunch, to the cinema and bowling and I would be supporting disabled adults to take part in the activities.

I got particularly friendly with one woman who had epilepsy and we would meet and go for lunch. Once someone asked her who I was, and I introduced myself as her friend. It was really nice the way it happened, as she was a private person.

Learning new skills

Volunteering has really helped me to learn new skills. I did lots of courses including ‘Working with Vulnerable Adults,’ ‘Epilepsy and Autism Awareness’ and ‘Food Hygeine’.

I got a certificate for each course which gave me the proof to take to employers that I had completed the course.

Finding work

I recently went on a person-centred planning training day and while I was there, I said I was a volunteer for Scope and that I really wanted a job in care work. When we stopped for a break a woman approached me and said she worked for a company who provided care support.

By the end of the day I had been invited to an interview with them and I am delighted to say they offered me a job. I have to do four days training with them before I start working, and once my checks and references are in place I will be an employee.

I’d definitely recommend people to volunteer for Scope. Especially if, like me, you have a disability and are looking to move into employment. Volunteering definitely helped me to get the job. I had the training, experience and skills the employer was looking for.

Find out more about volunteering at Scope.

Read more of our 100 stories so far, and see how you can get involved

Swapping desks and laptops for mud and spades: two volunteering days for Scope

Tim and Aline both work for Virgin Media, one of Scope’s corporate partners. They spent a day out of the office volunteering at two of our schools, Meldreth Manor and Ingfield Manor. Here are their experiences. 

“All the team wants to go back.” Aline

I was fortunate enough to spend the day at Scope’s Meldreth Manor School grounds with four other colleagues.

Our mission for the day was to clear an area in the grounds and lay hardcore, ready for artificial grass for the sensory garden at a level wheelchairs can safely go over.

With the lovely support of John, the site manager, there we were! Armed with wheelbarrows, shovels and other gardening tools, we started by clearing the ground of dead leaves and branches.Four men standing in a garden with a wheelbarrow and shovels

Next we split into two teams, one would bring the hardcore and the other team would spread it evenly across the ground.

Half a day passed and we broke for lunch. We met John again who explained that there  is only a team of four responsible for the maintenance of the 22 acre site – that’s mind blowing! All the extra work that needs to be carried out is purely done by volunteers. The staff  have their hands full just with maintenance as it is, let alone having time for improvements. That gave us even more courage to continue and ensured we want to go back.

After lunch, John showed us around the school, through classrooms, sensory rooms,  and a kitchen where the children learn vital life skills. I was quite overwhelmed with the  different  kinds of accessible devices that were tailor-made for each person. It’s thanks to donations that Scope can source these custom-made devices so that the children can be more independent. And it’s up to us to give Scope the necessary resources so they can continue to do what they do best.

In the afternoon we continued with our labour, and at the end of the day we managed to spread six out of the 20 tonnes of hardcore.

All the team wants to go back and continue to support as best as we can this amazing charity.

I cannot give enough thanks to John and the lovely teachers that we meet that day, you are true inspirations!

“Wow! A day of coppicing!” Tim

I was one of four people who swapped our suits, laptops and mobile phones for wellies, gardening gloves and very different tools of the trade… bow saws, loppers, axes and billhooks!

Wow! A day of coppicing!

For us, this was a volunteering day to help the wonderful David on his vast project to transform the woodland at Ingfield Manor, an amazing school ran by Scope.A man using garden shears to cut some vegetation

Coppicing is an ancient form of woodland management, which still continues widely today.  Naturally wooded areas will continue to grow and if left untamed become deserts for wildlife and ecosystems.  Too much shade cuts off growth at ground level. Coppicing makes way for sunlight and then the dormant vegetation awakens.

David has divided his Woodland into six zones. We worked on zone two. He’s still got a long way to go. But you can already see the buds of wildflowers emerging and the insects that live off the moist ground. David told me he regularly finds micTwo men working in a garden to secure a net around the base of a treee and toads, which live off the insects they find.  And some relatively rare buzzards keep returning to catch their prey. I saw one overhead, an amazing sight with its wings spread in full.

Our coppicing focused mainly on hazel, with a little bit of ash too; making pea-sticks to sell in the local garden centre, and stakes and runners to build natural fences.  The clearing of the ground is also allowing David to gradually build a sensory experience for the children, helping them achieve in ways that were previously not open to them.

My colleague wrote: “For me it was an incredibly rewarding Four men in wellies sitting around an open fire, drinking cups of teaexperience meeting some of the children. Together with David’s insight into the woodland project and the school, children and staff it was a day I will never forget!”

I couldn’t have put it better myself. When was the last time you said the same about your day?

If you’d like to get involved with some volunteering for Scope, have a look at our current opportunities and get in touch! 

“If they give me a chance, I can prove what I can do.” – #100days100stories

Georgina, who has learning difficulties and two children, spent 15 years out of work. Support from Scope gave her the confidence to start volunteering, update her CV and prepare for interviews. Georgina shares her story as part of Scope’s 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

Georgina holding her CV
Georgina spent 15 years out of work

Last May I started working in a factory. Before that, I hadn’t worked since 1997, when I had my daughter.

I planned to go back to work when my daughter started school, but by then I was pregnant with my son, so I stayed at home with him. He has learning and behavioural problems, and it has been very difficult. It wasn’t until 2011 that I could start to look for work.

Looking for work

I have a slight learning disability, so my brain doesn’t process things as quickly as someone else’s might in certain areas. In my new job I haven’t struggled, but some things are difficult.

Since 2011 I’ve been on Jobseeker’s Allowance. I got put in touch with Scope through the disability officer at the Jobcentre in 2012. I worked with Jan, an employment advisor.

I had no references, and there was no way I was getting a job without one. Jan and I decided that we’d write me a CV and drop them in at charity shops – do some volunteer work to get a reference.

One of them, a Red Cross shop, got back to me, so I started volunteering there. It was meant to be just for a reference, but two years later I was still there! I learnt a lot, and I still go back to help out sometimes.

Georgina and Jan, Scope employment advisor, working at a laptop computer
Scope employment advisor Jan supported Georgina to update her CV and prepare for interviews

Gaining confidence

Jan would either make appointments to come into the shop to see me, or I would come to Scope’s office in Eastbourne. We would meet once a week. We did work schedules, talking about what I’d done in that week, and I did my job search.

My confidence and self-esteem weren’t that great for a long time, but it’s better now.

At the charity shop I learnt to do basically everything. The manager, Michaela, said I should apply for Assistant Manager jobs in charity shops – I have all the skills. I’m pretty good at saying, ‘Oh, I can’t do this, I can’t do that’, and then finding that I can do it after all.

Getting the job

Someone at Scope saw this job opening and said I should go for it, and Jan went with me to the interview.

I am a good hard worker, if given the chance, but if I hadn’t have been with Scope when I’d gone for that interview, I know that the shop wouldn’t have offered me the job.

Not everywhere will give me a chance. If they give me a chance, then I can prove what I can do.

If you would like to talk about employment support for disabled people, we have a recruitment advisor from the Business Disability Forum on Scope’s online community now.

Read more of our 100 stories, and find out how you can get involved in the campaign.

The Lesley Finley Awards

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. Melanie Close, Chief Executive of Disability Equality North West (DENW) talks about an awards ceremony they recently held to recognise the contribution that Disabled People make in the community.

lesley finlay
Lesley Finlay taking part in a march

It was with great shock and sadness that we found our Chair, and friend Lesley Finley had passed away last year.

Lesley, who used to be a nurse, was registered blind at the age of 25 caused by the diabetes which she was diagnosed with at the age of 10.

She had two kidney transplants as well as two pancreas transplants and was also a bilateral amputee – not many people realized that Lesley wore two prosthetic legs.

But despite her health issues, Lesley was a good friend and hardworking colleague of Disability Equality NW for over 10 years. Starting as a volunteer, she went on to become a Trustee, Company Secretary, Vice Chair and then Chair of the organisation. Lesley had a passion for supporting and enabling Disability Equality to support local disabled people and where necessary would actively challenge service providers to ensure equality of access for all. Lesley was a quiet person who worked extremely hard, she would do what needed to be done, without making a fuss or telling everyone she’d done it; Lesley never sought gratitude or acknowledgement – she just wanted to make the world a better place for disabled people.

We wanted to celebrate Lesley’s life and the contribution she made to our organisation and decided to hold the first Lesley Finley Awards ceremony. The award highlights and recognises the amazing work done by disabled people in Lancashire, to improve the lives of other disabled people. The awards were also a tribute to Lesley – to the hard work and commitment she showed in helping others

We plan to make the award on an annual basis to a disabled person who has made outstanding achievements and contributions in the areas of disability rights, welfare and support of disabled people and the promotion of independence and the principles of the Social Model of Disability.

The award was sponsored by Community Gateway, Prestons largest social housing provider.

Seven people were shortlisted for the award, all who had made an outstanding and varied contribution to the community.

The winner of the award was David Hinchliffe for his role as a volunteer at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, helping to make exhibitions and projects accessible for people with visual impairments and hard work in assisting a group to be independent and continue to meet after project funding came to an end.

We’re looking forward to next year’s awards and seeing all of the great work that is happening in our community.

Scope Community Services turns one

Scope Community Services Birthday Cake

Recently I visited Scope’s Community Services in West Norfolk as they celebrated their first anniversary.

Sara Brown, who is the Community Organiser, matches volunteer befrienders to disabled people who would like to get more involved in their community. The service helps people to do things locally including accessing community activities, travelling independently, and making new friends.

Speaking to a number of people who had benefited from the service helped me to understand how they had gained in confidence from having a volunteer befriender. Tom, who attended the one year celebration event, having built his confidence, is now going out after school for the first time in ages.

The volunteers too said that they enjoyed making a difference to the lives of those they befriended. The age range of the volunteers was impressive with them ranging from those in their 20s to 60s.

Find out more about Scope Community Services for West Norfolk and our service in Nottingham.