Once upon a time, I could never envisage myself as an accomplished communicator, as someone who could rise above the bullies, and use my Autism disability to my advantage; but then my life changed. I changed; all because I started volunteering. I have written a little story to describe why volunteering changed my life, and why it is like a second home...
"It's raining. Droplets splatter uncomfortably onto her face as she stumbles down the hill. Tears mingle together as the judgemental words echo around her brain. Footsteps pound on the wet path behind her and someone is calling her name. The girl begins to shake as anxiety takes control; oh no! Not again... The person has caught up now, holding up their hand and waving for her to stop walking. The girl stumbles to a halt, breathing fast. What now?
"Oi! You can be so stupid; you know you deserve to get beaten sometimes, right? Your disability is, like, SO frustrating!” Say’s her friend with a shrug and a shaking of their head.
The girl stiffens, suddenly afraid. Here it comes; the sickness, the uncontrollable horror as depression rages through her blood, shaking her making her feel worthless. She resists the urge to scratch. To yank. To pull at her hair. She can't cope. "Look, it's not my fault you are never going to amount to anything; you should be thanking us! You’re so stupid and annoying that you would be lost without us" shouts the friend, fire burning in their eyes, as they spit the words out like fire on their tongue. The words sting, stabbing her in the heart. The girl charges on and pushes past her friend, now a stranger. Running as fast as her legs can carry her, her saviour, a simple brick building, looms ahead of her. She's home.
Laughter can be heard over the bubble of excited chatter. She opens the door and steps inside breathing a sigh of relief and is immediately met with the smell of toast. Pads of paper with colourful illustrations litter the floor from the latest campaign. There's food on the table and camera equipment all set up. Computer screens lit up with PowerPoint presentations from her group’s latest disability understanding training. Young people mill about and suddenly they all turn around and look at her. With terrible self destructive thoughts roaring through her tired mind, the girl wipes the tears from her eyes and looks at the floor, ashamed. She didn't feel ready to participate yet; the emotional pain was still too raw.
But that soon changed.
"You're here! Yay! We are filming tonight - want to help us? Your Asperger’s makes you super cool with ideas for our campaigns! We need to film a case study about discrimination for our next disability training. What ideas you got?" Someone asked as they flounce up to her high fiving her with excited clumsy hands. She laughs despite the negative wash that had bathed her with sorrow. The muscles that had been so tense before begin to relax. She inhales again as a smile replaces the sad grimace on her face. Looking up, she sees her friends all smiling at her encouragingly. She would never usually be so outspoken with her old friends... but these people were family; they cared – they understood and accepted her. Before she can stop herself she nods, and describes her freshly brewed idea.
Everyone cheers and a round of applause erupts through the room; "that's a great idea!" and she laughs. She walks in, relaxed, laughing, joining her real friends as they show her their new voluntary magazine they created and their ideas for their latest campaign to make a difference. This is her second home, right here; with the support from these wonderful like minded volunteers. She was so relieved to be a part of such a beautiful little close knit community now. No longer was she bullied for her differences, but celebrated; no longer an alien as an outcast of society, but a worthwhile member... she now had hope and opportunities to enable her to strive for a better future.
It's all ok. She's safe. She’s supported. She's with her family again... She's home."
You want to know something? That was me. Although the story is mostly a fake, the emotions behind it are true; I was that lonely and afraid little girl, on her journey to one of her first voluntary sessions.
At the beginning of my voluntary journey I was depressed, lonely and afraid for the future. A victim of bullying and abuse made my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder a nightmare to deal with. I was drifting into the darkness, not certain I would make it out the other side (sorry, that’s a story for another blog!). When I was referred to start volunteering with a youth disability action group called the Chatterboxes, I had no idea just how much those inspiring people would enlighten me, uncover hidden skills, and just how much I would learn.
I honestly had no idea how happy I would become.
Volunteering with a wide variety of projects has completely changed my life for the better, enabling me to adore my disability and achieve my dreams! I volunteer with a disability youth group called the Chatterboxes, where we design a magazine to showcase talents and passions of our disabled members. We also design and host fun interactive disability awareness workshops, I do motivational speaking about my disability and advise the council and government on how to make issues more disability friendly.
The chatterbox sessions are utterly precious because the staff are amazing; support that is showered upon us all simply drenches us in self belief, confidence and life skills. I suddenly found myself with the rare opportunity to learn my independence, socialise, participate in team work exercises and able to amount to my full potential, while surrounded by a team of like minded people who were all motivated to help make change while having fantastic fun with their friends.
From the very first session I adored it... I turned up for the first event clutching a note pad, a nervous smile and a broken heart. And slowly but surely those wonderful people mended the gaping holes within my heart, and filled it with the glorious sensation of making a difference. I loved it; the relaxed and fun atmosphere, being surrounded by like minded disabled people who understood, accepted and celebrated our differences. On that first day I left the session with pages of ideas, compliments swirling through my brain and cheeks that ached from so much laughter. I left with my head held high, that much more confident and happy; I had already decided that volunteering was the path I should take. Within a month I was happy. A changed person; And so I threw myself into volunteering...
Thanks to volunteering, and the support I received from my family, I have done speeches at important nationwide conferences in front of hundreds of people, seniors, professionals and young people alike. I have been on national radio and TV. By the age of 23 I have won National Awards for my ‘Commitment to Volunteering and Community Change, including recognition from the Prime Minister. I am currently a representative of England’s Autistic Community, in a worldwide Award nomination and I was a 2nd place finalist for a worldwide ‘Autism Individual and Community Achievement’ Award...
The truth is, volunteering is more than an opportunity to gain experience and more than something to do... Volunteering can become the one place you feel accepted. It's a community, a second home; it's a sanctuary of love, hope and friendship. A supportive and understanding environment can enable much more than just positivity; it can build up skills you never realised existed. It can support your voice and make you feel like a worthwhile member of a beautiful little close knit community. It really can enable my disability.
I now know that this is what I want to do with my life, I will dedicate my life to helping the Autistic Community in any way that I can; sharing positivity, challenging negative perceptions, and spreading love, understanding and acceptance of the diverse beauty of the human race! My life-long ambition has always been to create a positive difference to as many people’s lives as I can; and volunteering can enable me to succeed in that dream...
Volunteer: change lives, to change your life.
To read more about the Chatterboxes youth Disability group please see "Inspire" - "My Awards and What I do"
x <3 x
Disclaimer: I am not an Autistic Spectrums Disorder expert, nor am I a Therapy Professional. Any advice I give is for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be considered professional advice. Professionals, such as teachers, doctors and therapist should be consulted before any life style changes are made, This website, and my services, should not be seen as a replacement for professional diagnosis, medication, or therapy. I refer to myself as a professional; however this is due to my experiences as an individual with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder and not due to my qualifications. Everything on this website is written from experiences and my own personal opinions. I hope to educate and inspire others with my knowledge. I can not guarantee any personal success or results, and will no be held responsible for any lack of success.
Why I Love my Second Home