This Volunteers’ Week, Hft is celebrating people who give up their time to support adults with learning disabilities.

Valerie Healy is one of over 100 people who volunteer at Hft. After working with a similar charity in her hometown of Cork, the 40 year old was keen to continue volunteering when she moved to Bristol. Since January 2018, she’s been taking time out of her busy role as an administrator in a veterinary pathology lab to spend one day a week with 40 year old Berry, who she was matched with through Hft’s volunteer buddy scheme.

The scheme allows people supported by the charity to be matched with people who can help them take part in new activities and try new hobbies. People specify what activity they’re interested in and the charity advertises for the volunteer position to recruit someone with similar interests. New experiences introduced by buddies have ranged from dog walking and gardening to attending football matches.

After Berry mentioned she was keen to have a female friend of a similar age, the pair were matched up through the buddy scheme and have since developed a close relationship. During her time as a volunteer, Valerie has taken on a range of activities, including music, Zumba dancing and trips out, at the supported living service where Berry and 15 other adults live.

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.”

During Volunteers’ Week (1 – 7 June), Hft is celebrating and thanking people like Valerie for the contributions they make. The charity offers various opportunities for volunteering, including corporate volunteering, fundraising and 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. The charity’s volunteers contributed over 8,000 hours of their time in the last year.

Lorna Bird, Project Coordinator for Volunteering at Hft, said:

“Volunteers are the lifeblood of initiatives like our volunteer buddy scheme, which unites people with similar interests and couldn’t run without people like Valerie. 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.”

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.

Notes to editors

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About Hft

Hft is a UK charity supporting more than 2,900 adults with learning disabilities across England and Wales to live the best life possible. Established in 1962, the charity uses its own unique Fusion Model to consistently deliver high quality, person-centred support across all its services.

Services range from supported living to residential care – from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day. Hft also helps people with learning disabilities to take part in daily activities, make friends and develop relationships and to find work.

For more information about Hft, please visit

Information about learning disabilities

A learning disability can be mild, moderate, severe or profound and is defined as having a reduced ability to:

  • Understand new or complex information
  • Learn new skills
  • Live independently

For more information about learning disabilities, please visit