George, from Portsmouth, is 23 and has cerebral palsy. In 2017 he joined Leonard Cheshire’s volunteering programme Can Do, supported by Howdens. This is his story...
Before joining Can Do, I felt isolated from my community and didn’t have any friends to socialise with. This made me feel sad and meant I didn’t have anything to look forward to.
I was referred to Can Do through a youth project I was attending during the holidays. Although I enjoy attending the youth project, it’s designed for people 13-21 years old so I’d really outgrown the group and wanted to be around people my own age.
When I first started Can Do I lacked in confidence and felt socially isolated. Being part of Can Do has made me feel included in my community and I know my contribution is valued. It also gives me something to look forward to without the need for my family to be there which gives me a greater degree of independence and helps me feel more confident in my own ability. I have made lots of friends and see them regularly through volunteering and the steering group.
I now have a circle of friends. It is a really good feeling when I attend Can Do and everyone shouts out ‘hi George!’. It makes me very happy. I am very confident now and volunteer for everything. I am keen to volunteer overseas and feel that I am ready to do that now. I have a lot to thank Can Do for, I now know that I am a nice person because I have friends. At school I was always told off for talking too much, but at Can Do I am encouraged to speak. Yay!!! I love Can Do and look forward to every session.
I tried to get support and training through the job centre but every time something was set up it fell through. This didn’t help my confidence and left my family feeling frustrated and unsupported.
I have taken part in a building community programme and gained a City and Guilds qualification. I carried out in an accessibility audit at Goodwood’s Festival of Speed after joining the steering group in June. I attend regular steering group meetings which enables me to have a voice and shape opportunities for other young disabled people. I’m hoping I’ll be able to share my thoughts and ideas with other Can Doers by attending a national steering group meeting in the future. I also took up training in ceramic skills and have delivered the training to members of the public through workshops at two community events.
I have gained skills and experience in conservation, animal care, surveying, collecting data, teamwork, ceramics, workshop delivery, voicing my opinion, orienteering, shelter building and screening films.
I’ve always had a passion for cinema and anything related to films so having the opportunity and initial support to volunteer with the Portsmouth Film Society (PFS) has been exciting and educational. My ideal job would be a cinema projectionist and PFS are exploring if it would be possible for me to operate the projector at the weekly film events that I now volunteer at. It would be brilliant to have this experience on my CV as it could open up opportunities for me to move on to.
I’m now able to confidently speak to members of the public to give them information about a film screening or direct people to their seats and having this responsibility is great for my independence. I have applied for a job as a cinema host at my local Odeon and hope I will be successful because of the skills I’ve gained by volunteering with Can Do and the Portsmouth Film Society.
I also really enjoyed representing our local area at the National Steering group meeting in November and sharing my ideas with other Can Doers. It was the first time I have stayed overnight without my family and it made me feel more independent. I hope it will lead to more adventures now I can do it.
I think anyone that has the opportunity to join Can Do should join. I talk about it to anyone that will listen and would thoroughly recommend it.