At Hft, we’re hugely grateful for the contribution our amazing volunteers make to the lives of people with learning disabilities at our services across the country. From supporting people to take part in their favourite hobbies, to spending the day refurbishing a sensory garden, there’s an opportunity available to suit every volunteer.
They include Michael, who has been volunteering for Hft’s friendship and dating service Luv2meetU since 2018. Read his story to find out more about what exactly volunteering for Hft entails, and how it’s become more important than ever over the course of the pandemic.
“I became a volunteer for Luv2meetU after a friend of mine began working for them and I saw how much she loved her job. I fit my volunteering around my work commitments on evenings and weekends. I chose Luv2meetU as opposed to some of the more well-known volunteering opportunities partially because of the lack of mainstream awareness of smaller unique organisations such as Luv2meetU.
In my role as a volunteer I have supported in a variety of ways depending upon the needs of the members, as Luv2meetU is completely member led. We organise events based upon what members ask for and support them to make and maintain friends and find relationships. I have supported members visiting the aquarium, escape rooms, cafes, train rides, the local outdoor wetlands centre, cinema trips and science related exhibitions. There really is something for all members no matter what their personal interests are, and if for whatever reason there isn’t, then Luv2meetU will make it happen.
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Photo taken prior to the pandemic
Since March 2020, the support provided to members and range of activities changed due to the pandemic. I provide support to the local Project Development Worker, Sacha, by thinking of new creative ways that we can engage the members remotely. We’ve established activities including ‘Cat Bingo’ (a twist on traditional bingo with varying pictures of cats all sent through the post along with snacks and pens), a lego group and a quiz night, as well as many other weekly activities, events and safe spaces to interact. I often support the Facebook Messenger group, make suggestions for conversation starters, support with bingo, have one to one chats online and via the telephone. Before the pandemic I used my knowledge of the hospitality industry to arrange and help facilitate a cocktail making workshop – this went down in Luv2meetU history as being one of the most popular activities ever!
Luv2meetU is relaxed and allows me to support members to be creative and have fun. It’s a really rewarding role. I have completed Induction training, Equality and Diversity training, and Autism Awareness training.
The members are so welcoming. We have running jokes and fun conversations within the evening chat groups. I feel that I must be a great support to the people who are isolated as sometimes we are the only people they see week to week. The training and support I am offered, the fun engagement of members, thoughtful and innovative activities, and ethos of the organisation are all excellent. I would highly recommend anyone considering becoming a volunteer to do so with an organisation like Luv2meetU.”