My volunteering experiences
I’m Shona, a 20 year old blogger, writer, powerchair user, activist, volunteer and more. For nearly 7 years I’ve been sharing my thoughts on my blog about what I’m passionate about, including conversations around ableism, accessibility and disability rights.
When I had to leave school at 16 years old due to my worsening genetic condition I really had no idea how I was going to spend all this new free time, daytime TV got boring quickly and of course during the day everyone I knew was either in school or at work. I also started worrying about how my CV was going to look very empty compared to my peers, and that’s when volunteering first came into my life.
At first all the volunteering I did was in person, I first started volunteering for a few hours on a Saturday at my local charity shop and then shortly after I also started volunteering at the school where my Mum worked, working with disabled children. At this point my condition was severe enough that being in school all day wasn’t an option, but I could manage a few days here and there of volunteering to keep me busy. I was spending most of my time at home, resting and being very bored, so volunteering gave me a purpose and showed me what I was still capable of. When my health continued to decline though I thought it was the end of my ability to volunteer, when in fact that was just the very beginning for me.
Despite having had my blog for a few years by this point I had no idea how many online volunteering opportunities were out there. An article about my experience with my condition, Marfan Syndrome, that I wrote for the Hypermobility Syndromes Association was what sparked my longest running volunteer role. I’m part of the social media team but mostly I am the Marfan ambassador for the charity, I write posts for the social media, website and e-news and generally educate people and raise awareness through my role. It only takes a couple of hours, at most, out of my week which is doable even when I’m mostly in bed resting. That’s the beauty of volunteering online, it can be done from the comfort of your home.
I also have another role that is a good balance between the two though, it’s mostly done online but a couple of times a year I attend a meeting as part of my role on the patient advisory group at the British Heart Foundation. For me this has been such a rewarding role as my voice shapes decisions made about applications for funding for clinical studies that help further research and help those affected by cardiovascular conditions. I’m the youngest person in the group and it’s really shown me what is possible, regardless of your age, and that’s something I really want to pass on to others. You can achieve so much whether you’re young or old, if volunteering is something you’re interested in then it’s all about finding the right role for you. I think there’s something out there for everyone!
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Marfan Syndrome Advocate