I have been a volunteer mentor with the Futures project for three and a half years now. I was one of the first people to join the project when it began in 2013.
Before I volunteered I was working full time as a buyer for an engineering company. I knew that when I retired I wanted to try something different; I thought volunteering would be a way to do just that – and to put something positive back into society.
Throughout my time with Futures I have supported four young people who live with a disability. For the first young man I worked with, having someone to socialise with was very important. We met regularly and went bowling, played pool or just had a drink and a chat. I saw myself as someone he could talk to and have a laugh with; we enjoyed each other’s company and I enjoyed watching his confidence grow as he interacted with the world around him.
The second young man I supported was very different, he was introverted and inclined to not say much – to me or anyone else. Encouraging him to open up was definitely the biggest challenge I faced whilst volunteering with Futures. However, over time we got to know each other, first volunteering on a book swap project and then at a museum together. As he started to trust me he began to talk to me about some of the concerns he had regarding leaving school and starting college. I hope I was able to allay some of his worries.
I enjoyed seeing his confidence increase over time, so that he felt more comfortable talking to other people but it was particularly satisfying to know that, as a result of our discussions, he decided to change the college course he had originally chosen to a more challenging one. He is now doing really well and is currently looking for a part time job in hospitality – I am so pleased I was able to help him on his journey.
Since then, I have supported a young lady to volunteer at a museum and I am currently supporting another young man to volunteer at a care home. Volunteering has helped me to have more patience and I’ve learnt to listen more. I’ve also learn that different people need different approaches – I am learning all the time and my confidence in supporting people has definitely increased.
Volunteering gives me a sense of pride and makes me feel I am doing something worthwhile – I would definitely recommend it to others.