5 reasons to become a wheelchair volunteer
There’s no doubt about it: the Covid-19 pandemic has made us a whole lot more community-minded.
So if you’re thinking about getting involved, why not become a wheelchair volunteer? These volunteers from our Newcastle team might just twist your arm.
1. You'll have fun
As you can see from our video, being a wheelchair volunteer is fun.
You’ll be joining a team of passionate, motivated people from all over the world, who often know a thing or two about pub quizzes and local restaurants.
You’ll also have all the support you need. Allan, a volunteer coordinator for our mobility aids service in the north east says:
“Having direct contact with service users and hearing their stories, some involving bereavement or serious illness, can take a lot out of the volunteers and staff.
“But in every situation that we have, even if it's upsetting, we talk about it. I encourage the volunteers to speak out. If they have issues and concerns. Talk to me, ring me, text me email me. I'm going to ring you.
“And I appreciate it because when we they share something, somebody will learn. And that is what we want. That's what I want with the volunteers is to make sure that when they wake up in the morning they learn something.”
2. You're helping the NHS
Our wheelchair volunteers have been helping to take pressure off the NHS since it was formed in 1948. It’s part of our long, shared working history.
Now, with Covid-19 pushing the NHS to breaking point, it needs us more than ever. Throughout the pandemic, our mobility aids service has helped to clear wards, which means taking home patients with other conditions so the beds can be used for Covid-19 patients.
Other times, patients need our wheelchairs to get around even if they have recovered from what originally put them in hospital.
“No one should have to stay in hospital for lack of a wheelchair or other mobility aid,” said Geoff Cheshire, head of the British Red Cross mobility aid service. “And vulnerable people with mobility challenges shouldn’t feel trapped in their own homes, especially at a time when we are already self-isolating.”
And as wheelchairs are vital to mental health, giving users independence and dignity, we’re helping the NHS there too.
3. You're making a real difference
It’s no secret that volunteering makes you feel great. But as a wheelchair volunteer, you get to see the direct impact of your work, while ensuring people get the support they need when they most need it.
Allan says that service users are often overcome with emotion when they find out they can borrow a Red Cross wheelchair. Such a small thing can make a big difference to their lives. He says:
“When I book a wheelchair for someone, they say: 'Wow, that's really helpful. We don't know anything about wheelchairs but you have explained everything to us, and made it easy to access this equipment, so we can get out and about.’
“You can hear and feel the emotion over the phone, and then I get emotional too.”
Allan adds that it’s plain to see that his team of volunteers genuinely love their roles.
“It’s not unusual to see a volunteer smiling broadly at the end of a call.” he adds.
And as someone who volunteered in his native Philippines and now volunteers in Newcastle, Allan also wonders whether volunteering for us might even be a bit addictive. “Once a Red Crosser, always a Red Crosser,” he says.
4. You'll meet lots of different people
There’s a story behind every wheelchair hired from us.
On one day you might be helping someone like Andrew in our film – a fit and active man who injured himself at the lakes. He was developing a major case of cabin fever before he received our wheelchair.
On another you might be helping an elderly person who wants to get out and about with family when they visit. And another time, you might be helping someone going through end of life care.
Nalin, a volunteer at our Newcastle service says: “We can give people a little bit of help in their last moments. They can use the wheelchair to make the most of the time they have left. This gives us mixed feelings, good and bad, but at the end of the day I get happiness knowing I've helped someone.”
5. You'll develop superpowers
As well as practical skills, such as customer service and how to assemble a wheelchair in under 30 seconds, you’ll learn things that other roles just don’t teach.
As a wheelchair volunteer, you’ll often be dealing with society at its most vulnerable. Over time, that means your emotional intelligence and resilience skills become razor sharp.
Chiamaka knows that small acts of kindness make a big difference to the service users she supports.
“A kind gesture can make a whole lot of difference. Just smiling at someone or talking with someone over the phone and really trying to know how they are doing.
“These little things matter, especially now, during the Covid-19 pandemic. When our service users get the opportunity to talk to someone, they are always relieved. The human connection is what we shouldn’t let go of.”
Become a wheelchair volunteer!
If this sounds like the role for you, then we'd love to have you. Our wheelchairs really do change the lives of thousands of people across the UK, every year.Sign up as a wheelchair volunteer