Learning with Leonard Cheshire Disability

Growing up noticing ‘the stare’ and the exclusion surrounding someone’s unique characteristics, I looked for a disability charity to support. After my sister’s stroke, I questioned humanity.

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you’ll know I’m all for equality. I stand up for various things in blogging, I speak out about my volunteering experiences and beliefs, and joining forces with Leonard Cheshire Disability, I understood what diversity truly means.

Disability is disability, right? Anyone with the same disability is the same, aren’t they?

Just like everyone else on planet earth, we’re all different. The next bald person will be different from me, another John will be different from me, and someone else’s thoughts might be similar to mine, but that doesn’t mean we’re the same?

There’s a huge misconception surrounding disability and stereotypes really don’t help! This is why I wanted to volunteer with Leonard Cheshire Disability. I wanted to learn more about inclusion and how I can use my story, my experiences with the charity and experiences from loved ones to amplify the NEED FOR MORE UNDERSTANDING!

If you’d like to find out more about who Leonard Cheshire Disability are and the work they do, click here.

I’ll be honest and say I was scared when I started at Fryers House (24 bedded service in Romsey), as it was going to be a completely new experience. OK, I’ve done my fair bit of volunteering in health and social care/disability sector, but at the same time, I’ve never been in a situation where those I’d be supporting have limited communication.

My first thought was…” How is this going to work?” “How do you communicate without spoken word?”

Expressions, hand movements, signs through eye contact are just a few ways to make communication, and just like I’ve pointed out above, it’s unique to the individual. The individual approaches are an incredible learning opportunity, and I certainly didn’t expect to be proposed to on my first day! (Who can blame them, right? I’m awesome!)

The first day saw me getting involved in their gardening project, assisting creating a more visual area for residents to enjoy, and my non-existent gardening skills quickly became apparent. I’m not a gardener, nor am I a fan of horticulture, but at the same time, this is what volunteering means to me. Volunteering is putting yourself out of your comfort zone, learning in the process, and having fun doing something you never thought would be fun.

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Being joined by Aviva UK on the day was a blessing. Getting to know why they wanted to help Leonard Cheshire Disability and their passion for helping their local community helped to put me to ease. The Volunteer Coordinator at Fryers House is also part of the reason why I enjoyed my time pretending to be Alan Titchmarsh. I don’t say this very often, and I certainly don’t have favourites, but Fryers House has one of the best Volunteer Coordinators I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering with. She’ll remain unnamed in the post, as she’ll get a big head, and we don’t want that now, but seriously, when you meet someone with a passion for what they do, has a heart of gold, and also puts time and effort into making sure a volunteer is happy, they’re a special person to be around.

I talk about the reasons why I volunteer is to put a smile on others, but when someone puts a smile on yours, it’s the one thing that influences how long I spend with a charity. I want to be happy in the environment where I’m giving time, and then the glitter came out. Yep…GLITTER!!

One activity I never ever got close to as a child and especially when leading an activities team at a summer camp, was arts and crafts. Arts and crafts had never taken my fancy, until I was invited to help Fryers House to sparkle. Sparkle is my middle name (it’s really not!) and knowing how much I enjoyed my time already with the charity, I said yes. I’m now married to a box of glitter.

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Joining in with the arts and crafts, just like I do with nothing else in my life, I wanted to keep things simple. I wanted to express myself via my amazing folding and cutting skills, along with my love for joking. Can you spot the joke in a picture below?

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When you do something so simple, it has a big meaning. The big meaning was the way volunteers come together, whom had never met before, and speak like they’ve known each other for years. That’s why I loved volunteering at the charity. It’s a BIG reason why I believe the Volunteer Coordinator is a gem to the sector and to Leonard Cheshire. When you have that connection with someone where it feels like you’ve known them your entire life, volunteering becomes simpler. The passion amplifies. Stories are told.

Stories that were told at Romsey Abbey this past weekend when I assisted Fryers House at a volunteer recruitment event, where a tad too many jokes were told. A tad too many jokes that drew people in, whom wanted to hear more about the work Leonard Cheshire Disability do, and that’s the beauty of being a volunteer.

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Once you volunteer, you have stories to tell. You have stories to tell where you can draw people in and they want to know more. When they want to know more, you can feel you’ve done something amazing, where your conversation will be talked about post event and someone somewhere will want to volunteer. Probably not, when you see a guy on the floor posing for the camera! (Vogue…hire me now!)

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In all seriousness, I’ve loved my time at Fryers House for many reasons and I did tear up during their Volunteers Week celebrations.

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I love how JRTV100 is helping so many people, but it’s always so hard saying goodbye. I’ve volunteered with a lot of charities in time (including those I’ve supported through the blog) and I never find it easy to walk away, and that’s just how much of an impact Leonard Cheshire Disability have had on me and my journey.

Thank you so much Leonard Cheshire Disability for amplifying my hunger to help more people and to speak up about disability and a massive shout-out to Fryers House’s Volunteer Coordinator. Thank you for making this an unforgettable experience and I wish you and Fryers House every success in the future.

I found this role via do-it.org and if like me, you’d like to join Fryers House, click here.

 

 

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