‘I am 53 years old and started volunteering with Active Volunteering Barnet in February 2009. My first volunteering placement was with Barnet Garden Project based in Hendon. At the time I lived 40 minutes’ drive away, and I needed a lot of therapy and help to be able to use public transport. At first I used taxis to and from the project, when it would otherwise be a 3 bus journey each way. My support worker who helps me at home then got on the buses with me a few times until I was comfortable enough to make the journey alone.

As a volunteer at Active Volunteering Barnet I helped with every aspect of growing vegetables and fruit; from preparing the ground and planting seeds in the polly tunnel, to planting the new shoots and tending to them until ready for harvesting. At first I did this voluntary work to overcome my insecurities. At this stage I was not talking to people and would hide my eyes behind my hair, but because I enjoyed the work enormously I slowly relaxed and was able to come out of myself.

I was at the Barnet Garden Project for 4 years and during the last 2 years I was much more confident and ended up showing the other guys with learning disabilities what to do! I didn’t just learn about all aspects of growing organic vegetables and fruit. I developed better communication skills and was able to interact with all people and staff – I was even confident enough to take on a leading role in team work! I’ve gained so much from volunteering and I’m now at the point of coming to the Whetstone Community Plot and teaching new volunteers with learning disabilities what I have learnt over the years.

I’ve also learnt new skills and confidence in working with learning disability guys, which I had never done, before volunteering with Volunteering Matters. I would highly recommend Volunteering Matters to anyone who decides to do any sort of volunteering. They have such good resources for finding the perfect volunteering opportunity for you (tailored to suit). They are thorough in finding out all about you – the whole person- and matching up with what you would enjoy.

I find volunteering most invaluable. I find in it a sense of community, calmness, subtle achievements and good friends, and a feeling of just helping which is very rewarding. It has also given me invaluable experience, so that if ever I get employment I would consider seasonal work in the field (sorry about the pun) of vegetable and fruit production.’