“My name is Owen and I have had help from full-time volunteers since 2009 as part of Volunteering Matters’ project ‘Choices’. I have a condition called Dejerine Sottas Syndrome, which means I use an electric wheelchair and need support in all aspects of my day-to-day life. My first experience of having volunteer help with my disability was when I started university in 2009.

Since then, I’ve continued to have volunteer help throughout starting a career as a journalist and moving away from home. I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would wholeheartedly recommend the service to anyone who needs similar support!

They help me get up in the morning, go to bed at night, cook my meals, support me going to and from work and enable me to pursue an active social life. Without them I would not be able to live independently and would be wholly reliant on the support of my family. Now, thanks to their support, I have been able to enjoy student life to the full, move into my own flat and pursue a career in journalism.

The flexibility offered by volunteers enables me to live a life which would be impossible with traditional forms of care. Like any other person my age I don’t want a regimented life and enjoy being able to do things on the spur of the moment even with my disability. The nature of my work is also extremely unpredictable and I have to be ready to adapt to breaking news at short notice. Volunteers are able to cope with this unpredictability in a way which traditional care agencies would find impossible.

Being supported by someone who is a similar age to me is another reason I enjoy having volunteers. Many of them share similar interests to me; whether it be a passion for football, a love of cinema or a similar taste in music.

Having so much in common with the people who support you is a great asset and I have built strong, lasting friendships with nearly all the people who have supported me over the years.

Through my experience with volunteers, I have been able to meet a diverse range of people from all over the world, coming from places such as Colombia, Mexico, Germany and South Korea. This has given me the wonderful opportunity to learn about other cultures and teach them about life in the UK. This two-way process helped strengthen the relationship between me and the volunteer, meaning that both of us were able to help one another over the course of our time together.

I’m still in regular contact with the volunteers who have supported me over the years, and many have come back to visit since finishing their placements. I recently became godfather to one of my previous volunteer’s children and was lucky enough to be able to travel to Vienna to attend the christening. Having the opportunity to form such close bonds with the people who support you with a disability on a day-to-day basis sets volunteering apart from other forms of care.”