Two years before starting to volunteer with the Futures project, I had finished working in retail and I was spending a lot of time each week visiting my elderly mother and taking her out and about. She has impaired vision and needs support, however it was reaching the point where my mental and physical health was suffering because I wasn’t getting time for myself.  I saw my doctor who referred me to the Wellbeing Service where I registered an interest in volunteering, due to feeling so isolated. I didn’t know what volunteering opportunities there were locally to me but The Wellbeing team put me in touch with a Volunteer Co-ordinator who helped me pinpoint opportunities I was interested in.

We contacted Volunteering Matters and the next day I received a call from one of the team.  She and her colleague were visiting Gorleston and Great Yarmouth that same week so we arranged to meet up for a cup of coffee and a chat.  I liked the sound of the Futures project and was really keen to work with young people with special needs.

Once my DBS clearance came through, the Futures team matched me up with a young man who had just started volunteering in the Sue Ryder charity shop in Gorleston.  He has a learning disability and needs a regular support volunteer to help him keep on track and learn new skills.  He and I got on really well right from the start!  One of our regular tasks is checking the state of donated DVDs and CDs, and labelling those which pass the quality test.  We soon discovered that we both enjoyed similar films, and while we work, we chat about the films and the actors we like and dislike – we don’t stop talking!  He wants to become a film director so we make up film storylines together too.  I have been really excited to see him getting more confident and outgoing over the weeks while he has been volunteering – talking to staff and other volunteers, making them hot drinks, asking questions and remembering how to tackle all the tasks he has been given and learning new skills in the process.

I have benefited a huge amount from volunteering on this project, it has given me a different outlook on my life.  I have met some really nice people – including staff and volunteers in the shop, the Futures team, and the family of the person I’m supporting.  My health has definitely improved – both my mental health and physically!  It has built up my confidence and I think it will open up more volunteering opportunities for me in the future.