I started volunteering originally as I wanted to become a Teaching Assistant in a specialist school. I was employed in a mainstream school and so needed to gain some experience with children with disabilities. I didn’t want to take a pay cut and volunteer in a specialist school for one day a week, and so looked on the Do-It website for opportunities to volunteer. I began volunteering when I was 14 years old, and started volunteering regularly from 17 years old, so I knew that it was something I enjoyed doing. I applied on the Do-It site and within a few days Jo had contacted me! That was 4 years ago and I still love it! Volunteering with Umbrella is brilliant because it is flexible, and so I can fit it around my paid job and other volunteer commitments.

I now work for Mencap. Volunteering with Umbrella gave me some of the skills to do this. Although the majority of my experience is from supporting children, these skills are transferable for my current job supporting adults. This volunteering also encouraged me to gain a qualification in Makaton. I always look forward to volunteering with Umbrella, particularly on day trips. I like to catch up with the children that I have built a relationship with and also like to meet children that I have not met before. I have always found the staff at Umbrella supportive throughout the day and have found that they see volunteers as an equal. It is lovely to see the children we support having fun but also gaining new skills themselves.

Umbrella has made a difference to me as volunteering is something that improves my mental health. How can you not smile when you see the children we support?! My awareness of particular disabilities has vastly increased and I have learnt a number of different ways to adapt my support to the individual.