“You are not defined by what you cannot do, but what you can do” - MAP Volunteer
Volunteers United, a project run by Mercian Ability Partnership (MAP), provides opportunities for people living with disabilities in Tamworth to take an active part in the community.
Project members are encouraged to volunteer at Shopmobility, a local business which offers mobility scooters and aids for hire, as well as at the MAP main office. Karen Mills, Volunteer Co-ordinator at MAP, said: “Through the project, volunteers have developed their customer service skills from interacting with local people. They have also gained basic office skills from tasks such as taking telephone enquiries, inputting data on a computer and helping to update the newsletter.”
Volunteers get valuable one to one support from Karen and the customer advisers at Shopmobility to ensure their needs are being met whilst volunteering. Karen said: “The project focusses on helping each volunteer to progress and achieve their personal goals. Support is tailored, therefore, according to what skills the individual would like to gain.
Volunteers have shown real commitment to the project; they learn from and support each other, building confidence and social ties.”
The project has a particular focus on providing support to people experiencing mental health issues. Project member, Ian Fry, explained: “An aggressive incident resulted me leaving work, which negatively affected my mental health. In the time I have been volunteering at Shopmobility, I have noticed a positive change.
The project has enabled me to share my mechanical background with other volunteers and students on work placements. I often show them how to carry out simple maintenance checks to ensure the safety of equipment before it goes out for hire. I attend twice a week, which is helping me to maintain a regular routine and get closer to a working environment.”
Since the project started in September 2017, many project members have found employment and created meaningful relationships. Jason Freeman, a project member, said: “I worked with unfamiliar equipment during my time volunteering with MAP; as a result, I gained new skills and knowledge. Since finding work, I regularly return to MAP as I now consider my former colleagues to be close friends”.
In addition to volunteering, the new project steering group enables project members to coordinate activities and take the lead on different sessions.
Volunteers United is funded by People’s Health Trust with money raised through The Health Lottery in West Midlands.
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