For Volunteers' Week 2018 we are celebrating the fantastic people that help us make a difference every day. Katie is from Leeds. She has been volunteering for Epilepsy Action for 2 years in the fundraising team.
“I volunteer because I currently can’t take on paid work due to my epilepsy. I was diagnosed at 17 and struggled to adjust, although my seizures were relatively settled for the first 2 years. I got through my A Levels fine and went to university to do nursing – but every barrier came up. I’d not had a seizure for 6 months but they said I couldn’t complete my first year and unless my condition improved I wouldn’t be able to continue into the second year. If I’d had another seizure, I would have got kicked out. I was told I could transfer into another course but there was no other course I wanted to do. And I was worried that the same issues would come up again. I felt like I couldn’t really do anything."
Katie knew that Epilepsy Action were based in Leeds, and emailed to offer to volunteer.
“So, I started volunteering in the Local Services department and now I’m supporting the Fundraising team. Mainly, I hand-write good luck cards to lots of people doing challenges. I think it helps to boost people, having that personal message of encouragement just before a big race. Once I received a card all the way from Belgium from someone thanking me for my support.”
Katie has now been asked to design her own good luck card for fundraisers.
“I’ve started sketching an idea, and hoping it’ll be good for the team. I hadn’t drawn since school, but I recently rediscovered it in the midst of some mental health problems and losing my job. Having a creative outlet is definitely helping."
“Usually, I come into the head office a few times a week, but it’s very flexible. Some weeks are quieter and I’ve taken some time off when my health is poor. Being around people does me good and it gives me a purpose, especially at the moment when I’m unable to get paid work. I can put it on my CV too. Volunteering keeps my brain active, which is really important when I eventually go back to work. And I love being part of a team. At Christmas, I received an advent calendar on my desk, just like everyone else in the team, which was really nice.
“Volunteering for a charity is the best place to be in terms of removing barriers. Here, for example, there’s a safe place to go in the office when I feel ill. There’s also no pressure to commit. If I find I’m not well enough, I can change the day I work. I wouldn’t give up volunteering, even if I found a paid job!”