James is a full-time volunteer from Taiwan who is based in London. He supports a BBC journalist with his everyday routine at work, and has even found that they have made firm friends.
‘My name is officially Chih-Chien Chiang and I’m from Taiwan, but usually here people call me James! I’m 29 years old, and I’m a Full-Time Volunteer in London. I have been volunteering for 9 months – it’s really good and a brand new experience for me.
The beneficiary I work with is called Alex, he is a BBC journalist who has cerebral palsy and is a wheelchair user. Alex has a carer in the morning who supports him to get up and get dressed, and helps him into his electric chair so that he can get to work. I meet him at the BBC when he has his lunch break, where I help get his lunch for him and complete day to day tasks that are made easier by my support.
My beneficiary has had the help of volunteers for ten years now, and this started when he began university. As well as helping him with everyday tasks, we chat to each other a lot. It’s great for people to have someone to share their thoughts and feelings – whether negative or positive.. In the 9 months that I have been volunteering here, we have gone from just service user and volunteer to also being friends, and I spend quite a lot of time talking with him. It’s a real bonus for me, and something I never expected before I came here.
Having the opportunity to improve my English and gaining experience in healthcare are two of the reasons that I wanted to volunteer. There are big differences between Europe and Taiwan when it comes to voluntary roles – I think it is due to differences in culture and social expectancy. It’s quite common for European people to have a gap year before or after university to find out what is really interesting for them, and what they really want to do in the future.
In Taiwan and Eastern Asian countries I think we are often expected to follow a certain path, and when we finally graduate we usually go straight into our career. For me, I think it is beneficial to have the break between university and work. You can sometimes feel a bit lost after graduation, and sometimes people don’t really understand what they are going to do for their career, and what they really want to achieve. In the same way for me it’s a chance to take a break from my usual life, and have a time to reconsider what I really want to do.
I feel my goal is quite clear. I think the time I’ve spent volunteering has strengthened my ambition to work in healthcare. I would definitely recommend volunteering to other people. It is a very good opportunity. Volunteering doesn’t need to be a means to an end, like fitting in with your career plan for example. It also can be a way to encourage you to find your own way, shape your own experiences, and to be inspired.’
If James’ story has inspired you to get involved with our Full-Time Volunteering programme, find out more on our website.