Ashley – giving something back as a volunteer

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The many benefits of volunteering!

by Ashley Bunn (Volunteer) Starfish Stoke, Connecting Choices project

I’m Ashley, 29, and I have been a volunteer for Starfish Social Hub since 2019. I was born with cerebral palsy which limits my physical ability, but it has never stopped me doing what I have set out to do. Anyone from the social hubs will tell you that I am driven and determined as an individual as well as a volunteer. The reason I wanted to become a volunteer was to give something back and to help the participants maintain a positive outlook and to see smiles on their faces!

How did you hear about Starfish Social Hubs?

I was referred to Starfish through Groundworks as at the time they were my Connecting Choices work coach provider. At first, I did not feel I needed to attend the social hubs and to be honest I very nearly didn’t as my social skills are decent on a day to day basis. My short time with Groundworks was excellent. They understood me and my condition really well, and if it wasn’t for Groundwork I wouldn’t have been a participant of the social hubs let alone a volunteer. Honestly being a volunteer for Starfish, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Why did you want to volunteer?

My first few days as a volunteer at Starfish were interesting. I wanted to help the participants the best I could and I had an idea of how I was going to help, however I didn’t think the participants would want to hear my story and my personal experiences, how wrong was I? 

Tell us about getting started as a volunteer.

I started by mentoring the participants and helping them to settle into the day to day running of the social hubs. This included filling in paperwork with the participants, also making sure they were settled and helping them if they had any issues during their time in the social hub.

What is your proudest achievement from volunteering?

Covid-19 affected us all in the social hubs. We decided to keep the hubs running online via Zoom. I would honestly say that’s one of my proudest moments of being a volunteer as it was a huge challenge for us all, we all took it under our wings and simply turned it into something special. If it wasn’t for Zoom I don’t think I would be as close as I am as a friend to some of our participants. I’m also proud that I am able to run my own evening hub sessions every week night and even over Christmas and New Year, which I really do enjoy doing and think they are beneficial to the members who attend.

How has volunteering helped you and why should someone consider volunteering?

One of the benefits for me being a volunteer is it’s helped me to have a purpose in life again, the hubs and the participants have also helped me through tough times and for that I thank them because they helped me to keep focused and keep going.

I personally think volunteering is a fantastic opportunity. It has given me something to focus on, it’s made me less nervous about bigger occasions and it’s built my confidence up. I wouldn’t hesitate to tell anyone in our hubs to become a volunteer as its brilliant and looks great on a CV. 

Socially Distanced Walk

Participants on a socially distanced walk recently.

Zoom Social Hub

Since COVID-19 the social hubs have been running virtually to enable participants to still meet and talk.

If you know someone in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire Moorlands or Newcastle-under-Lyme that we can support please contact Natasha Church, Head of Service: natasha.church@ixionholdings.com or 07919 004301.

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