This Volunteers’ Week, national learning disability charity Hft is celebrating its 110 volunteers, who have dedicated more than 8,000 hours of their time in the last year.
The charity offers various opportunities for volunteering, ranging from corporate volunteering and fundraising to a buddy scheme. Volunteers have the chance to make a difference to the lives of people with learning disabilities, while also gaining confidence, skills and new friendships as a result.
Among Hft’s volunteers is Valerie Healy, 40, who started volunteering at a supported living service in Bristol at the start of 2018. The administrator was matched with a 40 year old at the service through the charity’s buddy scheme, which pairs people with volunteers with similar interests who can introduce them to new activities. The two now spend a day a week together, taking part in a range of activities including music, Zumba dancing and trips out.
Valerie said: “I like volunteering for Hft as it is very uplifting. I’m always greeted with smiling faces and hugs. As a volunteer, you get such a great sense of achievement, friendship, and belonging. It’s really rewarding and an experience like no other.”
Also giving up his time for the charity is Will Harris, who has cerebral palsy and works full time as a support worker for another provider. He has been with Hft’s friendship and dating service Luv2meetU since its inception in 2007 and has racked up nearly 1,000 volunteering hours. Will has taken on a range of roles including monthly days out where he supports up to six people to take part in local activities, as well as regular mentoring sessions with new volunteers.
Other volunteers include 63 year old Kate Cross, who volunteers for Luv2meetU too. As a parent of a member of the unique dating service, Kate was inspired to start volunteering after witnessing first-hand the impact Luv2meetU had on her daughter. Contributing over 100 hours over the last four years, Kate has been heavily involved in fundraising events ranging from service launches to rotary dinners, and even two fashion shows, which raised over £4,000. She’s also used her expertise as a parent to help the Luv2meetU team develop stronger relationships with family members.
Lorna Bird, Project Coordinator for Volunteering at Hft, said: “Volunteers are the lifeblood of many of our initiatives, which simply could not run without them. We’re delighted that our volunteers choose to give up their valuable time to Hft and are always looking for more people to join us in supporting people with learning disabilities to live the best life possible.”
Volunteers’ Week takes place from 1 – 7 June this year and aims to celebrate and thank the millions of volunteers across the UK for the contributions they make.
Hft currently supports more than 2,900 people with learning disabilities across the country. This includes supporting people with learning disabilities to live with as much independence, choice, dignity and control as possible. That can range from helping someone to find a job, make friends or adapting their home so they can enjoy a greater level of independence.