Good manners teach us to give to others with no expectation of receiving anything in return.
Though our volunteers have altruistic intentions when they sign up to work with our charity, it soon becomes apparent that they get a lot more from their role than perhaps they’d first thought.
Take Speak With I.T. volunteer Heather Page, who recently joined the charity from the University of York. Heather will soon begin the third year of her degree in English Language and Linguistics, before going on to do her Master’s in Speech and Language Therapy. She felt that involvement with a charity whose main concern involves speech and communication would be a benefit to her studies. She says, ‘The volunteer role with Speak With I.T. seemed to offer experience of the career path I have chosen. I would ultimately like to be a Speech and Language Therapist, so working with people who have aphasia is relevant and a good place to start.’
Speak With I.T. ask that their volunteers exhibit certain qualities. Because people with aphasia can often feel frustrated, isolated and even depressed – due to the difficulties they face when trying to be understood – it’s important that anyone visiting the client is patient, empathetic, with good communication skills of their own. Confidence is another requirement, as sessions need to be planned and steered, and a range of emotions dealt with; any wallflowers would quickly wilt! Heather has the ideal attributes.
Heather expected her new volunteering role to be challenging, especially given her other commitments. She thought it would be enjoyable, regardless – and now that she’s matched with a client, she confirms this is the case. ‘I’ve met with her a few times now,’ says Heather, ‘and it’s great to see her confidence build in each session. I’ve formed a lovely bond with her and her family, and I look forward to the visits. I see her twice a month; we discuss her progress, and I set her new exercises to complete in her own time. It’s hugely rewarding to know I’m having a positive effect on her.’
Being a new volunteer, Heather admits that it’s as much a learning process for her as it is for her client. She can see, however, that the skills she employs to plan sessions and solve problems can easily be transferred to her studies, which gives her greater confidence in her abilities within the fields of linguistics and communication. She adds, ‘Sometimes, it’s difficult to know whether to step in and help my client if she’s struggling, and which exercises or strategies are the best to help her locate a word, for example. The more comfortable we get with each other, though, and the more we work through the computer therapy programs the charity uses, the easier this will become.’
It certainly sounds as if Heather is off to a flying start. And she’s keen to continue: ‘I’d like to carry on working with my client for the foreseeable future, and perhaps even take on another one. I’m really enjoying my role at Speak With I.T.; they’re very welcoming, and it’s a fantastic charity that works hard on behalf of people with aphasia.’
As a charity, we’re incredibly lucky to attract volunteers of all ages and backgrounds. It’s a great feeling to know you’re not only helping someone with aphasia improve their speech and communication, but that you’re also boosting the skills and knowledge of the person you’ve sent in to help them. Heather is just one of our wonderful volunteers that give their precious time to our charity. We cannot thank her – and them – enough.