Practise What You Preach

I have always been passionate about volunteering which probably stems from my dad, even though I don’t like to admit it. My dad is a man of many skills and interests, and volunteering for a good cause is certainly at the heart of his priorities. These have been passed onto me.

I first started volunteering when I was 14 at East Lothian Special Needs Playscheme. This is a charity that runs events for young people with additional support needs. It was great as a young teenager as I was given a lot of responsibility and met a lot of friends that I am still in contact with today. I usually worked on a 1:1 with a young person; we would go swimming or to the zoo, soft play or for a walk in the sunshine. It was an excellent way to fill my school holidays. I volunteered every year and became a Group Leader in my 5th and 6th year at school. This was an honour as I had always looked up to my Group Leaders when I was a volunteer.

Before University, I decided that I wanted to do some volunteering abroad. I worked in a special needs orphanage in Sri Lanka and taught English in a special need women’s home for over a year. In Sri Lanka, disability is something that there is not a lot of awareness about. If a child is born with a disability they are often abandoned on the street and become orphans. At the orphanage where I volunteered, there were 30 young people and 1 carer. The carer, another international volunteer, and I looked after the young people and the orphanage. It was hard work and long hours. However, it was a fantastic experience and a volunteering job that I will never forget. Being surrounded by 30 brothers and sisters who had such complex needs but were always smiling, was just inspirational.

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After University, I decided that I would like to work in the charity sector and got offered a job as Volunteer Recruitment Officer for an International Development Charity. This was ideal – I got to spend my days encouraging young people to volunteer and training volunteers who were going to be doing similar roles as I did in Sri Lanka. The enthusiasm and drive that these volunteers had really encouraged me to pursue a job that was working with volunteers. This brings me to my current employment as Volunteers Manager with Dyslexia Scotland. I have the privilege of working with volunteers every day. As I spend a lot of time encouraging people to volunteer, I am a firm believer in practising what you preach.

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I currently volunteer for a few charities. I am a Cub Leader with a local Scout Group. I currently have 36 Cubs and we meet every Tuesday. We often go camping and on various different trips. My friends often ask me why I do this and if I am completely honest, it is for selfish reasons. I love working with kids and I enjoy the outdoors. I enjoy every session and don’t feel like it is a strain on my time. It takes a lot of planning and organisation but again, this is not a chore for me.

I also currently volunteer with Shannon Trust which is a charity that promotes literacy within the Prison Service. As I studied Criminology at University, I feel like I am using some of my skills in a positive way.

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When I have a spare afternoon, I look after a young boy with autism. I have known Kevin for a long time and I love spending time with him. It allows his parents some time for respite and means Kevin and I can go and explore.

I will be leaving Dyslexia Scotland on the 22nd June, but only for a month (you can’t get rid of me that easily…) I am heading to Zambia and Botswana to do some volunteer work with a group of Scouts. Again, I will benefit hugely from the experience I will gain and the skills that I will learn. I will be taking a few days off to go white water rafting in the Zambezi river! Wish me luck, I have a feeling I might need it!

Let’s face it; volunteering is fun, rewarding and really does make a difference. Why not give it a go? Whether you hold a coffee morning to raise money, spare a few hours to work in a charity shop, be part of a committee or joining a Brownie group. The opportunities are endless, as are the rewards.

Published by Dyslexia Scotland

We encourage and enable people with dyslexia, regardless of their age and abilities, to reach their potential.

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