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Volunteering with learning disabilities: “Now I feel like an expert”

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Matthew Curran blog“Matthew Curran came to the Hub for the first time in April 2013 hoping to become a volunteer,” says Jess Tunley, hub advisor at Bromford’s Stratford Hub. “His previous volunteer position at another organisation had ended and he was quite lonely and wanted something fulfilling to do.”

“Since volunteering with us, he has gone from strength to strength - he is such a hard worker! His confidence has grown every day and he has made some great new friends. We often have customers at the Hub with learning disabilities who want to volunteer or find work but it can be a challenge because of their disability. I think they perhaps struggle to give the employer a true image of exactly what they are capable of doing. At the Hub we embrace the fact that everyone is different and each of our volunteers has their own goals and tasks. Every volunteer with a learning disability has made such clear progress since starting their position; it’s really rewarding to see the change in their self esteem and the improvements in their daily work.”

Here’s what Matthew has to say about volunteering at the Hub:

“I have special needs and bad coordination. I find things difficult you know? I sometimes find dealing with customers difficult because I don’t understand them. It’s hard to find any jobs because I get confused and nervous when I meet bosses. At school the other students had bad behaviour problems which made me feel scared because I’ve always been polite and helpful. I can’t use computers; it’s a challenge with my special needs. My reading and writing is not so good.

“Some people think I can’t do things but I’m very capable. I go to the shops for my mum and I have volunteered before. I have done First Aid since coming to the Hub; I’m doing a literacy course and a sign language workshop and have another volunteer job with CAB too.

“If people with disabilities like me think they can’t volunteer, they need to see what we do at the Hub! I would say come and talk to me or Jessica because you ARE good; you just have to learn like any other volunteer because you can do the job. You just have to try.

“I have been here for five months and I feel like an expert. It helps my confidence to help people. I think it’s good to work in a team with the other volunteers. We help each other when we get stuck with things. If I hadn’t done volunteering before I would have been nervous but you’ll be surprised at what you can do.

“Since being a volunteer I have been in the paper a few times and I feel like a celebrity! I enjoyed promoting the new ‘safe places’ scheme with Phil, another volunteer who has a learning disability. When we were in the paper we showed other people that we help everyone and that we are good volunteers.”