Date published: 01 December 2022 by Katie Inglis
Meet Chloe. Chloe has been volunteering at Rainbow Trust for the past 10 years. In honour of both International Volunteer Day and International Day of Persons with a Disability, we want to share Chloe's story. We want to say a big thank you to Chloe and all our volunteers who give up their time to support us. Here is her experience of volunteering at Rainbow Trust:
I was born with Cerebral Palsy. I learned how to walk with broom handles walking up and down the sitting room with my mum behind me. I am someone who never gives up even if it takes a bit longer. When I was younger my saying was, “Try, Try”. Now I say, “I can do it, I know it will take a bit longer”.
When I left school, I wanted to do something involving working with children. I knew that because of my condition which affects my mobility, I would not be able to work in a nursery or playgroup, so I decided to find a volunteering role first. Back in 2011, I went into Rainbow Trust’s charity shop in Leatherhead to find out more about volunteering and I felt so welcome. Since then, I have never looked back.
I met the Volunteer Development Manager for the first time in my interview and it went really well. I started volunteering in their Head Office in Leatherhead. When I started it was straight forward; the team made sure that my desk was at the end of a row or easy to get to. I also did some of my tasks in the kitchen if I needed more room or when I was counting the money as it’s not a quiet job... I used my sticks as I could not get my rollator into the disabled toilet easily.
Rainbow Trust moved to a new, more modern office in 2018. The new office is a lot better for disabled volunteers as it is a lot bigger, all on one level and more accessible. The only problems are the three doors to get into the office; two of them have push buttons or automated opening, but the middle door does not, and they open in different ways. So, someone has to come out with me to help with the doors. The disabled toilet is big enough for anyone with a rollator, which makes it much easier for me to access.
The team help with getting my lunch out from the fridge and making drinks, and there are always people I can sit with to have a catch up and chat over lunch.
The pandemic was hard for everyone but being disabled brings extra worry, such as thinking about how I felt when I started going out again – how different will it feel after the lockdowns? It has made me more alert to things and you worry going to anywhere busy. That is how life is for us but we get used to it and it has taken longer to do certain things again. While I haven’t been back in the office in person, I have been sent work to do online so I still feel like I am doing my bit. During the lockdowns Rainbow Trust checked on how I was and if I had everything I needed, such as someone different to talk to outside my family, and if I needed any help getting prescriptions etc. I will never forget what Rainbow Trust has done for me. I also started making my handmade Christmas cards in aid of Rainbow Trust during the lockdowns and now I make them every year now too.
I think that the public underestimate disabled people as a lot of disabled people can do the job, just in a different way and a bit slower. I have a speech difficulty, but I am always happy to repeat things and so are most other disabled people as we are used to having to do that throughout our lives.
I would say to charities who are worried about taking on disabled volunteers, that disabled people know what they can do and if they need any specialist equipment then they know how to get what they need, even though it may take longer to get set up.
If someone who has a disability wants to be a volunteer, I would say just go for it if that’s what you want to do. When you go for your interview, find out what they can do to support you. You will feel if you are in the right place, if the people that work there make you feel part of a team.
Rainbow Trust treats their volunteers as part of the team and they value their work and time they give. - I have always enjoyed volunteering with Rainbow Trust.