“I didn’t want to go straight to university after my A Levels: I wanted to take a gap year and do something more meaningful. I came across Volunteering Matters, where I learned I could move away from home and still do something worthwhile via full time volunteering programme.
After attending an interview, I was placed at a project with Share Scotland in Edinburgh supporting adults with learning disabilities to live independently at home. I come from Northamptonshire, so moving to Edinburgh was a big change for me, but I loved it. I definitely had the true Scottish experience: I tried Haggis and Iron Bru, which I didn’t like, but I loved shortbread and oat cakes!
The project consists of supporting tenants who live in four adjoining flats. All of the tenants are fantastic – I feel lucky to volunteer with them. The staff team are also very supportive and helpful; it’s like one big happy family.
I have been able to get to know each tenant really well and love finding out about their personalities. The tenants quickly picked up my phrases – they now say things like ‘abort mission’ when things go wrong and ‘yay’ when they are happy!
One tenant is 24 and has autism. He loves comics and movies, so I spend lots of time watching superhero films and reading his comics. I feel proud as I have supported him to become more involved in the community. Another tenant is in her early 30s and has a learning disability. I’ve watched her become more independent, which has been rewarding. We also attend Aqua Aerobics together, which is a new experience for me.
I have learnt so much from this experience, but most importantly, I have made some new friends that I’m really going to miss. I have had a lot of fun, but the main thing I got out of this was learning and experiencing that there is so much more to someone than their disability.
The most challenging part of volunteering for me was doing things on my own. In my local area, there were not many people (outside of volunteering) who I could hang around with, so at times it was quite lonely. Nevertheless, I learnt to enjoy my own company. I enjoyed visiting different places and going to museums by myself. I did share a house with a male volunteer and, although it was a little awkward at first, we soon became great friends. We enjoy cooking together, going to the pub and he is teaching me how to play the guitar!
The main skills I have learned are independence and confidence. I learnt to do things on my own, to get involved in different activities and visit new places. I have been completely out my comfort zone and yet I’ve been absolutely fine.
I am planning to go to university in September to study child development. I want to pursue a career within the health and social care profession as a child therapist or counsellor. I feel that my experience with Volunteering Matters will be really useful for my application for the course and its given me some invaluable experience for my CV. My advice for anyone who is considering volunteering is to go for it. It is so rewarding to help other people and it’s a real adventure!”