A’s story

A was struggling with their mental health during the pandemic – they were new to London and had no one but their dog.

Hand waving a trans flag

Today we want to celebrate the story of one of our volunteers – we’ll call them A.

A was struggling with their mental health during the pandemic – they were new to London and had no one but their dog. They experienced various challenges as a transmasculine nonbinary person, and needed help. So they joined VCH’s Step Up programme, which uses volunteering to support people experiencing mental health issues with their recovery.

At first, A was apprehensive about sessions with Step Up, but soon things began to turn around. Through the 1 to 1 support sessions  and employment workshops, A learned how to challenge negative thought patterns and gained the confidence to give back to the local community. 

That’s how A ended up volunteering with VCH at vaccination sites during the pandemic. Many of us will remember how daunting it was to get vaccinated – that’s especially true for people with limited English. A supported many people who weren’t confident English speakers through the process by translating for them. By speaking to a volunteer in their own language, those people could communicate with healthcare professionals to get the support they needed, and get safely vaccinated.

Looking back on that time, A mentioned that they really appreciated how supportive people were of them and said the experience was “very positive” – volunteering reminded A that they had value and had something to give.

It’s thanks to A and volunteers like them, that VCH could support Hackney residents’ physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing during the pandemic.

After that, A wanted to find other ways to give back. They are passionate about a type of physical therapy called Shiatsu, as well as Qigong – a form of traditional Chinese medicine that uses meditation, breathing and movement for healing. They wanted to use their years of training to help other people. So when the opportunity came to lead Shiatsu and Qigong sessions in GP surgeries with our Together Better programme, A took a leap of faith.

They donated hours of their time, week in, week out to supporting other people, providing a safe space to talk and connect with each other. They told us, “It was good to hold the space” and that people became “more open, more able to support each other, to share” through coming to their sessions. And that’s the whole point of the Together Better – bringing people together and empowering people to take their wellbeing into their own hands. A’s work was key to making connections between people who are often isolated, helping them with their wellbeing, whilst at the same time supporting local surgeries.

A still faces challenges in their life – recovery isn’t a linear journey. But they wanted to reflect on how they’ve supported other people in the past – through volunteering.

Thinking back on their time as a volunteer with Together Better, they said:

“I was helping people. We were helping each other. When we were there, we were happier. A bit outside of our own issues. Worries, depression, whatever it is that we were struggling with… I was still struggling a lot, but I was able to go every week and be able to be there and do my best and that was good. I need to remember, that’s a good feeling to focus on.”

A is hoping to continue volunteering when possible, and to carry on providing sessions for other people. Volunteer Centre Hackney hopes to continue supporting them on their journey and we’re honoured to have worked with such an inspiring person who’s made such a big difference to their community.

Could you or someone you know benefit from our Step Up service? Find out more here.

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