‘My name is Lea, and I’m 21 years old. I’m a Full-Time Volunteer based in the South of England between London and the South coast…sort of in the middle of nowhere! I live in shared accommodation with 7 other volunteers from Volunteering Matters. My role involves working with children with disabilities between the ages of 3 and 6, and I think it’s a really cool project!
My main role as a volunteer is to support my team throughout the day, which is made up of 9 staff including teachers, a physiotherapist and a speech and language therapist. We all work together with the children and I absolutely adore what I do. A usual day starts at the school at 8:30am, where I begin with cutting up fruits for the children. My team and I then tidy and set up the room before the children arrive at 09:00.
The school uses the principles of ‘conductive education’, which is a learning method that encourages children with motor disorders of neurological origin to learn how to move their muscles of their whole body, and to practice completing daily tasks in practical situations. For the first hour of each day we work with the children in this way and we call this first lesson “motor learning”.
During their snack break I support the children to eat the fruit that we cut up earlier. I help as many children as possible, but it does depend on how difficult it is for the child to eat, and how independent they’re able to be.
Throughout the day the teachers deliver different types of lessons. As part of these lessons we sometimes make trips outside into the woods that surround the school, equipped with sensory toys, a campfire, tents and a little railway – all facilitated by volunteers.
I’ve worked with the children over the period of a few months, and I can already see that the children have got better at moving their bodies. It sounds cheesy, but if you see that they’re happy and smiling it’s really encouraging, and if I can make that journey with them it’s just wonderful. I have been there for many key moments, like seeing a child turn themselves over independently for the first time, or making their first step. These small progressions are wonderful to experience – that’s why I really love what I do.
The main challenge for me is living remotely. It can be tricky when you live in the middle of nowhere to meet other people – especially people your own age. I am good friends with the other volunteers in my flat though! On the weekends we all enjoy going out in London or Brighton, and visiting other volunteer friends throughout the UK.
Before I came to England I lived with my parents, but I really felt I wanted to have the experience of living out (despite getting on with them!) I think it’s easier if you have a middle step between living at home and fully moving out.
With Full-Time Volunteering with Volunteering Matters, you don’t choose where you are placed, but you can tell the team what you would prefer and they do their best to place you where you’ll really fit and feel comfortable. You have an interview before, and you just need to honestly say what you want and what you don’t want.
During this year I have developed my personality so much and gained a lot of confidence working with people from a variety of professional backgrounds. What I love the most is you’re not only made aware of your own strengths, but also get confronted with your own flaws which you have to deal with, getting to know yourself. I think everyone can, and should think about volunteering!’
If Lea’s story has inspired you to get involved with our Full-Time Volunteering programme, find out more on our website.