#Volunteering4All – Jonathan’s Story
Healthwatch Calderdale and Accessible Calderdale: Amplifying the Voices of Volunteers with Disabilities
Volunteering is a powerful force that brings communities together, fosters personal growth, and creates positive change. In this blog post, we delve into the inspiring story of Jonathan, a disabled volunteer who is breaking barriers, challenging stereotypes, and driving inclusivity in volunteering. His experience is a testament to the transformative power of giving back while highlighting the importance of creating more accessible and supportive volunteer opportunities for all.
From Uncertainty to Empowerment: Jonathan’s Journey into Volunteering
Meet Jonathan, a disabled young man with visual impairment who was navigating the complexities of life in his third year at residential college. He was studying Business Studies and had just completed a national vocational qualification. Wanting to transition into the working world, the path to employment wasn’t clear-cut. Unsure of where to start, Jonathan came across an opportunity through his college. Every week, students took turns manning the reception desk to gain valuable experience in the working world. Jonathan seized this opportunity, spending a year welcoming visitors and handling administrative tasks.
Jonathan’s college was not just about academics; it was a place that catered to his specific needs. The college had care and educational enablers who tailored their support to his capabilities. This personalised approach provided Jonathan with the support he needed to thrive.
Upon completing his studies and returning home, Jonathan’s mother had one request: that he continue to use and develop the skills he had acquired. It was at this point that he discovered the Next Step Trust:
“It wasn’t a practical option for me and unfortunately didn’t work out.”
The importance of compassionate, tailored support
Fortunately, Jonathan’s journey took an inspiring turn when he met Andy, who ran a provider organisation. Andy understood the importance of tailored support and directed Jonathan to Age UK where a voluntary position awaited him. His role was to log travel expenses for volunteers and ensure they received their reimbursements. It was a role that resonated with his skills and interests.
But, like any journey, there were challenges. Jonathan faced instances of being ‘fobbed off’ and encountering poor attitudes, particularly during the pandemic. After the third lockdown, the transition back to volunteering was far from seamless. Jonathan’s attempts to rejoin Age UK were met with delays and a lack of clear communication.
Jonathan has also faced frustration with a lack of understanding from the benefits system:
“I got a letter from the Job Centre about work and had to go to the Job Centre in Todmorden. They didn’t understand that volunteering was work. The government doesn’t understand that volunteering is work and everyone can do it and anyone can do it whatever their disability. I was upset. I went back to my Age UK boss and sat in her office as the job centre said I had to leave my role and go into supported work. My boss said I wasn’t to leave as they needed me there and I was good at the job. She wrote a strong letter to the job centre about my capabilities and strengths, and I have not heard back from them since.”
Moving on to a role with the Talking Newspaper , Jonathan overcame initial barriers of concern about his ability to read the news due to his visual impairment. He was primarily tasked with database management and handling receipts. But he observed the broadcast reader Nigel’s work closely over time, and Nigel recognised Jonathan’s deep passion for radio broadcasting. With incredible support and adaptability, they experimented with a larger font size (24pt) to accommodate Jonathan’s visual needs.
Versatility in volunteering
Since his college days, Jonathan has generously dedicated his time and skills to various volunteering roles, each leaving a unique mark on his journey. Contributing to Rainbow House, he built databases and managed receipts. His passion for radio broadcasting with Talking News led him to Phoenix Radio where he initially trained with Connor. Now, he not only pre-records shows but has also taken on live DJing responsibilities. We recently received an update that he is working towards having his own live show. Jonathan’s journey showcases not only his adaptability but also the incredible support and opportunities provided by these organisations, embodying a true spirit of a ‘can do’ attitude.
Jonathan, what would you say to anyone thinking about volunteering?
“Just do it. Success in volunteering depends on the attitudes of others and the confidence of the disabled person. If the environment is positive and supportive, it will work.”
Your voice matters
At Healthwatch Calderdale, we are passionate about promoting inclusivity and ensuring that the voices of individuals with disabilities are heard and valued. As part of our commitment to creating a more inclusive community, we are thrilled to launch our new initiative: amplifying the voices of volunteers with disabilities. #volunteering4all
We aim to gather insights and experiences from individuals who have volunteered or are currently volunteering, to better understand their needs, challenges, and aspirations. By listening to these perspectives, we will collaborate with our partners Accessible Calderdale, Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust and Locala to advocate for meaningful improvements in volunteering opportunities for individuals with disabilities, impairments, neurodivergent conditions and long-term conditions across the region.
Already, people are sharing their ideas about what works well and what could be improved:
“Ensure the volunteer is part of the organisation, not just there to tick a box and that people with disabilities are in leading positions such as board members where they can influence and make decisions.”
“Being able to get out and about and help people gives me a sense of purpose…I can say it how it is and feel valued and listened to.”
Views like this enable recommendations that will directly contribute to improving the quality and inclusivity of volunteering opportunities.
Why should you be a part of this initiative?
Because your voice matters. Your experiences, unique insights, and suggestions will shape the future of volunteering in Calderdale. Sharing your journey can help ensure that volunteering opportunities are accessible, supportive, and empowering for everyone.
Whether you’re currently a volunteer or have volunteered in the past, we want to hear from you! Your lived experience is invaluable in helping us understand what worked well and how we can improve these opportunities. You can talk to us about:
- Your Volunteering Motivation:
What inspired you to volunteer? Did you want to make a difference, learn new skills, or connect with others? Your stories will inspire others and help us understand what encourages people with disabilities to get involved and contribute to their community.
- Supporting Volunteers:
Support is key when it comes to successful volunteering experiences. We want to learn about how you were supported throughout your volunteering journey. Whether it was access to assistive technology, accommodations, or inclusive training, your insights will guide us in ensuring that the necessary support systems are in place to empower volunteers with disabilities.
- The Power of Volunteering:
Volunteering has the potential to make a positive impact on both the community and the individual. We want to hear how volunteering has made you feel. Did it boost your confidence, enhance your skills, or provide a sense of purpose? By listening to your stories, we can showcase the transformative power of volunteering for individuals with disabilities and inspire others to get involved.
- Shaping the Future:
Your experiences will play a vital role in improving the quality and inclusivity of volunteering opportunities in Calderdale. Together, we can ensure disabled people have equal access to meaningful roles and empowerment within our community.
To share your views, you can:
Complete the online survey by clicking the button below
Share your views today
Please do contact us if you’d like to talk to someone over the phone, face to face, or you require the survey in another language or format.
Talk to Lorraine Beiley at Accessible Calderdale
Telephone: 07596 707795