We simply couldn’t run our services without the support of our amazing volunteers. They work across all areas of the organisation and in all sorts of roles. Their work makes a huge difference to the way we work and the people we support.
What are the benefits for you?
The satisfaction of knowing you are helping to support local people affected by brain injury
Some volunteering activities are:
Help people affected by brain injury to learn or re-learn computer skills and to be able to use IT to improve their day to day lives.
Being able to prepare a simple nutritious meal for yourself is an often undervalued skill – could you help someone learn or re-learn how to do this?
Enjoy maintaining our lovely garden at Brunner Hall alongside our clients.
Examples of fundraising volunteer opportunities include:
Working with local schools, rotary clubs and businesses to ask for support, sourcing raffle prizes and other donations and saying thank you on behalf of the charity. From time to time we also need help selling tickets for fundraising concerts, selling raffle tickets and marshalling at events such as the Henley Living Advent Calendar and Christmas festivals.
Volunteering at Headway Thames Valley
When I first read about the work that Headway Thames Valley provides for those with brain injury as well as their families, I was instantly drawn to the charity. I had not encountered an opportunity like this before, so was delighted when I could volunteer here and discover more about it.
What I found initially touching, was the back story of the charity, how Roseanne and Pat Barnett started it when they couldn’t find support in the area for their son. It seemed baffling to me that there was no support for something that can impact a person’s life so severely, so I thought it was a great organisation, with an important purpose.
When I first started at Headway Thames Valley, I must admit I was slightly tentative, purely because it was a new experience for me, and I didn’t know what to expect. But already in the first half an hour I felt so relaxed and welcomed by both the staff and the clients there. I played pool (many times) and started to talk to and communicate with the people there and get to know them.
Something I was very aware of in myself was how I treated the clients. I was conscious of making sure I treated everyone the same, regardless of their abilities. For example, I went to make a client a cup of tea and didn’t know how he liked it, and for some reason I went to ask another volunteer how to make it, but immediately caught myself and stopped. I thought “I can ask him directly”. And I did. When reflecting on this, I feel a bit guilty. Perhaps it was just because I was worried that I wouldn’t understand his response, and although yes, it was a challenge to learn to communicate in different ways to what I’m used to, it was easier to adapt than I thought.
After a couple interactions, it was already easier to understand certain gestures or hand movements and the individual’s way of communicating. This was a big learning curve for me and something that will always be in the back of my mind when meeting and interacting with people of all different abilities.
I also learned a lot about different types of brain injury at Headway Thames Valley and the different challenges that come with them. Short term memory seemed to be a struggle for some clients, like forgetting names or telling the same story multiple times. What I found fascinating was the long-term memory ability of some people, as they seemed to remember many details about their childhood, whereas others maybe not so much. I also noticed that some people had attention difficulties and struggled to stay focussed on the conversation or to shift their focus when a new person started talking.
I found it very interesting and useful to observe how the other staff members would find ways to engage the clients even when they were losing focus. Talking to the clients about their struggles living with brain injury was also very insightful. I think the biggest thing that I learned, was that many of the things which people with brain injury struggle with, I don’t have to think twice about as they may come naturally to me. This was very eye- opening and made me realise that we often take a lot for granted and don’t realise how the smallest things can affect our daily life and our relationships with others.
Although my experience at Headway Thames Valley was relatively short, I learned a lot from the clients as well as the staff and volunteers. It helped me solidify the type of work I want to go in to in the future and gave me many skills to do that.
Perhaps you have more specialist skills and could offer your expertise for free?
If you have a few spare hours and are prepared to commit to supporting us regularly or from time to time to fit in with other commitments, then please contact us. We would love to hear from you.