People with disabilities or long-term health conditions can often feel excluded from the world around them, but having the chance to meet new people and learn new skills can be life changing.
Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children’s volunteer programme gets bigger and better every year, with the number of volunteers as a whole increasing by 15% in the last twelve months.
Newlife is also leading the way by opening up volunteering opportunities for adults with disabilities at its purpose built ‘opportunities centre’ in Cannock.
National Volunteer Manager Kevin Lowe said: “In the last year we had 335 people who gave their time to support the work of the charity in our shops and warehouses across the Midlands and in Merseyside.
“Here at the opportunity centre, half of our regular volunteers have a disability or long term health condition. We’re able to accommodate not only them but their support workers too, who make it possible for them to take part.
“Here at Newlife we very much focus on what our volunteers can do, rather than what they can’t, and tailor the tasks accordingly to suit their individual capabilities.”
The charity hosted 125 adult volunteers last year at the opportunity centre. Almost half of those attending were registered disabled, who collectively gave more than 7,850 hours.
Fifty-one-year-old Colin Longstaff, is just one of those who regularly give their time to volunteer at Newlife – clocking up more than 850 hours over the past ten years with the help of various support workers. His current support, Sue Lowe who works with PSS Midlands Shared Lives, says Colin’s confidence has soared since she has been bringing him.
“Colin has learning disabilities and although he’s unable to read or write he has learned lots of new skills at Newlife, made friends and really come out of his shell; he’s even developed a great sense of humour which has been great to see.
“His confidence has grown so much he’s now making decisions for himself, such as deciding what to eat. Although this might seem like a small thing, it’s a big step for him and his time spent volunteering at Newlife has given him the confidence to do so.
“Without me to support him Colin simply couldn’t volunteer and yet doing so means the world to him. He’s out in the community, having a chat, a laugh and developing a real sense of achievement from gaining new skills.
“Newlife provides an amazing opportunity for disabled people and has enabled Colin to feel valued and appreciated – something we all need in life. People with disabilities are no exception.”
Kevin added: “Right now we have 17 volunteers who come with support workers on a weekly basis, which is fantastic. Everyone has something to contribute and is truly valued. Our staff here work closely with both the support workers and volunteers to ensure they gain new skills and confidence and their abilities are gently stretched. We have seen people absolutely bloom.”
For more information about volunteering at Newlife call Kevin Lowe on 01543 439 927 or email Klowe@newlifecharity.co.uk