CHAMPIONING VOICES OF PEOPLE WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
I work as an ambassador for a special needs charity called Grace Eyre. I care about people with special needs, what with me having special needs myself. I think it’s important to find out the views of people with special needs to make Grace Eyre better for the people who use Grace Eyre. It’s a way of finding out what it is they want and what it is they like to do.
I make sure that everyone has a say, I try to help to change Grace Eyre for the better. We want to make sure it’s run by people with special needs. That’s important because I think people without special needs know what they’re doing, but if you have special needs then you know more about what should be done for people in Grace Eyre. I think it makes Grace Eyre better.
I started out as a volunteer ambassador. Then Grace Eyre advertised for a paid job, then I filled in the application and got offered to go to the interview. Then the next day I was told that I got the job. I wasn’t nervous for the interview, I felt like I knew what I had to say. I went just as myself and tried to think of good answers to questions that I knew they would ask me. I knew two of the people who were going to interview me, because I’d volunteered with them. I’ve been working there for nearly two years now.
I do a variety of jobs, I go to meetings, and I talk about what our department in Grace Eyre is doing. I tell people what we’ve been up to and how we can help to change Grace Eyre. I try to change Grace Eyre for the better. I enjoy working there, it’s a really nice charity and there are some really nice people working there. Whenever I come into the day centre, I always see loads of people with special needs smiling and enjoying themselves. That’s what I like.
I am also a manager of the Purple Club Night – which is a club night run for people with special needs run by people with special needs. We run the club night and offer a disco in the theatre. The DJs who do the disco have special needs too, I know the DJs because I know them through work or through school, or Blue Camel Club. So that makes it easier. I give the DJs a 45 minute slot each and they get paid for it. It’s not only a disco, but we offer a fun quiz for people. So, there are pictures and then you need to name the person, or name the program, or name the animal. On the back of the quiz we give them questions based on the Grace Eyre Charter, which is what we want to do within Grace Eyre i.e. what the people who come to Grace Eyre want. They want to be able to have a good relationship with their friends, see their friends more, they want to be able to enjoy activities, and want to be able to live with who they want to live with.
My job involves running the club night and giving volunteers jobs to do in the club night. I kind of stepped up to the role. My ex-manager was offered a job somewhere, so I took on the role of acting manager until a new manager arrived, but because they thought I was doing a good job, I was given the job permanently. I knew what to do because I’d been following my ex manager. Being the manager is perfect, whenever I go into work I put my ambassador job aside to sort out the jobs for this one. I sort out DJs, volunteers, plan future Purple Club Nights, and I make posters (e.g. for the committee meetings).
With the disco in the theatre – not only do people come to chill and have a great time, they also have a chance to see friends that they might not have been able to because they’re doing different things. With the Purple Club Night, we want to make sure everyone gets to see their friends and have a good catch up.
I love my job. I enjoy it so much because I’m doing what I love doing which is working with people who have special needs. I just love to see happy smiley faces when they come into the day centre.
I also do a lot of volunteering with Cancer Research, I do three days a week with them in their charity shop. I really enjoy working with Cancer Research because I love meeting people and I just love anything to do with retail – I’ve always loved retail. I was volunteering with Age UK before that. I thought that working in another charity shop would boost my CV, so I offered my services to Cancer Research as well. At Age UK I was only dong one day a week, now I do three.
If you’re thinking about volunteering, get yourself out there and do what you can for the community. If you get out there you’re helping people to save and better their lives. You’re giving yourself the chance to be a part of a community, a family, looking for change.
I love helping and giving back to the community. I enjoy everything I do, I enjoy my volunteering at Cancer Research, I enjoy my job at Grace Eyre.
*Photo and name changed to protect the client’s identity