“My name is William, I am 24 years old and live in Norfolk. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and before I started volunteering I was unemployed and attending a service called Aspires, a day service for people with learning disabilities, two days a week. The rest of the week I was at home with not a lot to do. Because I was at home most of the time, my mental wellbeing was decreasing. This is what inspired me to volunteer; to be able to gain independence and to be able to improve my mental wellbeing. I first heard about Volunteering Matters through social services. I started volunteering in August 2014 at the Escape Allotment in Swaffham.

Before I started volunteering I encountered many challenges which made day to day life more difficult. I struggled with getting up in the morning, being motivated to do anything, and feeling low about myself. I struggled with understanding and dealing with certain situations.

At first when I started volunteering I was slightly anxious as I did not know what to expect and struggled with being organised and getting up on time. However once I settled in and became more familiar with my surroundings I became a lot calmer, it was then I feel that I started to develop. I became more aware of tasks that needed completing and finishing them on time, I felt happier and confident and feel that I can be more upfront and honest with people and able to solve problems.

I have learnt a wide range of skills through volunteering; building my knowledge of gardening and nature, becoming more accepting of myself, building my social skills and confidence and I am able to problem solve and support others. From volunteering I have been able to accept myself and build my self esteem and confidence and feel like I have a meaning and a reason to get out of bed.

Volunteering matters to me because it has given me a bigger insight of the world and has made me feel like I am not alone and not the only one that struggles sometimes. It has boosted my mental wellbeing and made me feel like I am needed. Volunteering gives me something to look forward to and feel like I am helping others and gives me motivation. I am currently still volunteering at Escape allotments, attending a Level 1 course in horticulture and also attending a course with Volunteering Matters which is building my social skills and also learning how to support others and given me a greater understanding of other peoples needs and how to communicate with others. I plan to volunteer an extra day at the allotment and complete level 2 and 3 in Horticulture.”