Friday 1 June 2018
It is Volunteers Week’ folks and Get Yourself Active (GYA)’s long term volunteer, Iyiola shares his experience so far volunteering at GYA.
“Volunteering for me is about making connections, updating and acquiring new skills and getting up and physically travelling out to make a difference”
In my last blog about volunteering, I mentioned I started a part time role that keeps me busy two and a half days a week. But I continued volunteering because I just don’t want to sit around doing nothing for the rest of the week.
I have been volunteering at GYA for close to 16 months – wow! Time does fly and it is incredible to see the massive changes that have occurred since I joined the team. The GYA project was so successful Sport England decided to extend their investment further, meaning I get to continue volunteering and enjoying working with the team. The GYA project has a new team member who now does a lot of the communication stuff, L-Boss is off on maternity leave leaving K-boss temporarily in charge.
In my sixteen months as a volunteer I have seen the team move from East Road to Disability Rights UKs (DRUK) new office at Stratford. It means it takes me more time to get to the new office, but my travel is covered by the project as well as lunch. I miss the old office though; I miss the chap at reception who I got on well with, we both use to discuss old politics and the weather, for a non-African and he was very good at pronouncing my name accurately! I also miss the occasional old Arsenal versus Spurs banter with a particular chap who worked for another organisation at the old office, but thankfully we moved before the season ended as he would have had a lot of fun having one over me since Spurs ended the season better than Arsenal. Finally, I miss the full house we use to have there, in the new DRUK office staff often work from home because of the new modern way of hotdesking which means everyone cannot be in the office at the same time.
So, the new office and my take on it. It’s a cool place. Hotdesking reduces costs for DR UK and you are in this very accessible space (I say accessible tongue in cheek because accessibility means different things to different impairment groups) where different organisations and companies co-exist together. There are long large corridors and the view of the carnal is stunning. You are in a sort of modern tech town and lots of fancy stuff surrounding you – it’s good that a disability organisation exists there though because it keeps DR UK in touch with current trends in the tech world. It also gives these new tech organisations and their staff an opportunity to engage with a disabled people’s user led organisation and see disability from a more positive perspective.
In addition to what I normally do I participated in a research project that GYA is running with the University of Birmingham on inclusive and accessible information for disabled people who might want to be more active. This involved attending a focus group where participants assessed and advised the research lead about the information they were developing for Public Health England. I enjoyed the experience and felt I was part of a noble cause that will make information about exercise and physical activities more accessible to disabled people. I also transcribed for Kate on the Get Out Get Active project. I listened to (felt like eavesdropping to people having a conversation!) her group of mentees giving feedback on their experiences about being mentored to participate in sport. The experience honed my listening skills and possibly made me more patient!
In conclusion I see myself volunteering for a long time here at GYA, possibly till the end of the project unless my time is fully taken up by my other activities or if I start working full time. I enjoy volunteering and have been doing it since the 1990s. I understand not every disabled person can physically go out and volunteer like me, however if it’s possible everyone should volunteer one way or the other. Many charities (including some user-led organisations) now encourage remote volunteering (volunteering from home online) and I will encourage our readers whether disabled or not to volunteer in any way they can. The world needs your lived experience and skills and you can mentor or inspire someone too, it’s about being active folks and about getting yourself volunteering.
Happy Volunteers Week!