With the help of Full-Time Volunteers on the Student Choices programme, Ellie is studying at the University of Warwick.

“Before finding out about Volunteering Matters, I was living at home and being cared for by my parents. However, I knew this had to change if I was going to fulfil my ambition of studying at university and living as independently as possible.

I first found out about Volunteering Matters through current students at the University of Warwick, who told me about the positive experiences they had by being supported by Full-Time Volunteers. I was very keen to explore this option as I thought it would be more flexible than agency care and that volunteers would be more relatable.

Flexibility was paramount for me because my disability means I always need someone to be there in case I need help. Thankfully this was absolutely the case, and it was really important to me that I could build up friendships with the volunteers, not only to make the transition to university easier but also to broaden my horizons.

The project development process was very thorough so that Volunteering Matters could ensure they had lots of information and could find suitable volunteers. It was really nice that Volunteering Matters gave the opportunity for me to write a statement for the volunteers to read so that the process was more personal.

The support that I receive from Full-Time Volunteers is invaluable. Volunteers assist me with many aspects of daily life such as getting ready for the day, helping me to get around the campus and cooking. I’m incredibly grateful to have volunteers, as without this support I would really struggle.

Throughout the process, I’ve learned to communicate my needs and wants to the volunteers so that they can support me well. Communication was something that I found difficult initially, because I was used to my parents caring for me as they had done my whole life; they automatically knew what I needed. As time progressed, communication got much easier and I think this is mostly due to me getting used to the volunteers and how everything worked. It also helped to realise that the volunteers had to get used to working with me too, so I think it was a mutual learning curve.

Through having volunteers, I’ve learned how to manage people and got more comfortable telling people what I need which is important for me given the nature of the care I need. I have also got more confident using public transport to travel due to encouragement from the volunteers.

Throughout the volunteering placement, I noticed a significant improvement in the volunteers’ command of English and confidence. I would like to think that my confidence has improved too.

To someone considering having Full-Time Volunteers, I would say that I have found it to be very rewarding in terms of friendship and independence. It is important to recognise that it may take time for everyone to feel comfortable because it can be a big change, but is definitely worthwhile working through this. Overall I have found having volunteers very rewarding.”