The Joys of Volunteering

In our latest blog, Lizzie talks about her time in Voluntary work & how she didn’t let Cerebral Palsy get in her way. This is another happy story, showing that our bloggers do not let their disability stop them doing what they want to do 🙂

Hi again, folks

Today I thought I would attempt to tell the tale of how I got involved in volunteering for the National Trust and how my Cerebral Palsy was not a hindrance, in terms of doing what my role requires (except perhaps for the minor annoyance being unable to room guide in the upstairs rooms). However, as usual I’m getting ahead of myself.

I should begin with how I thought to get involved in the voluntary sector in the first place.  In 2010, at 20, I had procured for myself a little voluntary job in the summer at a local youth club helping to organise and taking part in an Art Project called ‘My Perfect Day’. The whole premise of this was to share ideas with older members of the community. There was then, a group of people under 25, and a group of people 55 and over. Each of us then had to come up with an idea for a piece of art which would be an expression of our individual ‘Perfect Day’.   This art could take any form, be it, poem, drawing, collage or knitting (quite a number of the group were keen knitters). Simple enough, right? The twist was that then you had to choose someone not in your age group, who would then have the job of producing something that expressed your idea. I remember I wrote a poem for someone, whose idea of a perfect day was dancing all night with a handsome young man in a suit. Its title was ‘A Dance to Remember.’

The whole thing was a rip-roaring success, the venue we had booked was spacious, and the people were the warmest most kind-hearted people one could ever wish to meet. The thing I remember being glad of at the time, was that I was able to use a manual wheelchair, and could thus could fit into the youth club (where we did all the organising) with no problem. It may have been difficult in an electric chair. I trust the reader will not to think I am referring to the method of execution here. 🙂

This experience then is what inculcated in me a love of volunteering. It will not surprise you then to know that shortly after my graduation in November 2012, wishing to make use of my history degree, I wrote a letter to the National Trust, asking if any of the properties in my area where interested in taking on new volunteers. I hoped to be of use as a room guide, specifically.

For those who do not know, being a room guide entails standing (or sitting in my case) in a previously assigned room and being ready to answer any questions visitors may have, or to aid people in whatever way necessary. This for the most part means answering questions on the history of the house and family, although the subjects do variety from time to time and can be quite wide-ranging.

Imagine my delight then, when I received a reply informing me that Coughton Court (in Worcestershire) was looking for such volunteers on a weekend. I duly went along to an interview with a member of the volunteer recruitment team, and was subsequently offered a post as a room guide. Ever since then, everyone at Coughton be they staff or fellow volunteers, have done everything possible to accommodate both me and my disability.  I find volunteering as enjoyable and fulfilling now as I did when I began, three and a half years ago. It has also helped me further develop skills employers always look for. I would recommend this to anyone who has time and would like to get involved in something simply for the joy of it.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this piece,

Best wishes,

Lizzie.