Volunteering - A Personal Experience



Our Peer Group volunteer, Wilson Paterson, shares, in his own words,  his experience of volunteering for us at Headway East Northants


I retired about 11 months before I had expected to. My line and manager and I recognised that my personal situation was making it hard to focus fully on my work. I was also getting very bored with the less stressful work I was reassigned to after my long sick leave.



In retirement I did not want to sit on my backside all day, and in particular one of the great intangible benefits of work is the social interaction it provides. Volunteering was one of my aims, and given Viv’s connection with Headway and the support I received I thought it might be a suitable organisation to work for. While my technical skills from work were not relevant, the extensive soft skills which I had developed during my time in work provided me with a good basis for doing something new. I spoke to Jean about joining the team of volunteers, and I was welcomed after the necessary checks into the team.



I had had an insight into how volunteering might work, with visits to collect Viv, when I would join in her Scrabble game. My initial thought once I joined the volunteeringteam was some sort of backroom role, where I could use my administration and organisational skills, but Jean and Jonny suggested I sit in on the peer support group. I did this, with Jonny leading. I did this and found to my surprise that it was a good fit with my skill set from work. I was used to be involved with discussions, often on difficult topics.  I was used to dealing with a variety of people and had good self-awareness, which allowed me to see how issues affect other people.



I also assisted one morning in the kitchen, supporting a client with his work. I enjoyed this, again doing something which suited me. I latterly did all the cooking for myself and Viv and now cook for myself. Supporting someone else on a one to one basis uses skills and attributes developed at work and in athletics. It was good to do something very hands on, and I was encouraged and supported by Janine. The support and encouragement of Headway EN staff and fellow volunteers have made the journey a lot smoother for me. I feel looked after and appreciated, with great care taken by managers not to overburden me, which I encourages me to give of my best.



Otherwise I continued assisting Jonny on the Peer Support Group, until one Thursday morning, he asked me to start off the session, as he was involved in a piece of work but would join us later. He didn’t, as the piece of work took longer to resolve than expected, so I took the session myself. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.



Jonny and I agreed that I was able to lead the group on my own. The clients were all happy about this. Tim, my fellow volunteer in the group, was supportive. So we went ahead. Initially I selected topics for discussion based around Headway factsheets on brain injury related matters, which are excellent. However the structure this provided made the sessions rather more like lectures. The clients themselves would bring up matters related to the topic under consideration, but this stimulated conversations beyond the topic. And these were interesting and addressed concerns or matters of interest for the guys.



I have no formal training in speech and language therapy, but I did recognise that stimulating conversation is a useful therapy, in terms of addressing specific ABI issues but also worries or, more widely, interests.



After a time I changed my approach in terms of topics. I have a topic in reserve, but I ask the clients if they have any issues they wish to raise. The issues vary widely, sometimes welfare and benefits are discussed, but often we talk about old films, television programmes or wider social issues. My aim is to encourage participation and for us to support each other with the extensive experience represented in the room in living with ABI. And to have a laugh, if possible.



My aim is not for me to lead the group but to facilitate it. I want the participants to decide on what to discuss and will only step in if things flag.



There is a core group who attend, but we are occasionally joined by new members.  I encourage them to tell their story and we share ours. Very often, this is just what the new client needs, and he, and more rarely, she doesn’t return. They are able to overcome the inevitable feelings of isolation and talk to people who understand.



After the session I complete a report on our discussions in the group.



I really enjoy our sessions. I leave afterwards with a spring in my step. I feel I am contributing to the rehabilitation of our clients. However, Headway, clients, staff and volunteers, reciprocate in contributing greatly to my wellbeing. 



Volunteering at Headway is simply the best job I have ever had. And I don’t get paid!


Latest News

London Marathon Information Evening, 11th February


We thoroughly enjoyed hosting our annual London Marathon Information Evening on Monday 11th February, and were proud to welcome a record number of runners!


The informal evening, held at our Irthlingborough centre, offered the chance for runners to take a look around our centre, meet fellow participants, and of course it was great opportunity for us to meet these amazing people in person! 


Guest speaker this year was Andrew Walker, himself an experienced London Marathon runner, and a member of Team HEN 2019. Andrew shared his knowledge and experiences, offering hints/tips about build-up to race day, nutrition, lasting the distance, and of course, recovery.


Huge thanks to all who attended!




New Year, New You? Come and be a volunteer!


Want to make a positive change for 2019? Then come and be part of our amazing team of volunteers!


Whether you have a spare day in the week, or even just an hour or two, visit our centre and meet our fantastic people. We have so much to offer those who've survived brain injury - maybe it could be YOU who helps someone re-learn a lost skill, or take on a new one.


For all volunteering enquiries, please call on 01933 652311 or email our deputy manager, Jonny Tudor, on  jonny.tudor@headwayeastnorthants.org.uk