National Volunteer Week from June 1 to June 7 is the time when the UK celebrates volunteers and says thank you to them for the contribution that they make.
At Ethos the role of volunteer and trustee is a vital one for a charity dealing with vulnerable clients facing dark hours coming to terms with life changing injury or illness.
That’s why having first-hand experience of what those clients are facing makes all the difference in not only the big decisions on the charity’s governance but also contributes an invaluable understanding of how the charity’s services should be delivered.
Rita Patel is a volunteer and trustee with our charity and she knows well how the our role makes a real difference in the lives of our clients.
Rita had a life changing injury in 2007 and, after a six month stay in the spinal injuries unit at Sheffield hospital, she came to the Ethos bungalows in Oswestry.
We run three properties in Oswestry where people with life-changing physical disabilities can live in a supported environment while preparing for independent living.
Our three bungalows are adapted for wheelchair living but also provide advocacy support for our clients to help them adapt to their future life as a wheelchair user.
We work closely with the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital but we also take clients from across the country.
Rita, who worked as a graphic designer before her injury, said that her two years at Ethos gave her time to rebuild her life and learn to readjust both mentally and physically.
“I think I would have found it very difficult to move straight into the community after coming out of hospital. My previous accommodation in Birmingham just wasn’t suitable for a wheelchair user so in effect I had nowhere to go,” she said.
She moved into a new home in Birmingham in 2010 and was delighted to be asked by Ethos to become a trustee and a volunteer with the charity.
“I was very flattered although a bit nervous. But I knew how the work of Ethos was so essential to people in a similar situation to my own, so I just couldn’t say no,” she said.
Now Rita uses her experience of being a wheelchair user, a former Ethos client, her knowledge of the care and benefit systems and her graphic design skills to support the charity that helped her rebuild her life.
“I have been through the system and I’m a wheelchair user so I can relate to the clients and what they are going through. Everyone has a different journey but there are many issues that are similar.
“It has been really satisfying taking on the role within Ethos. I’m extremely proud of being a volunteer and trustee. I get to interact with the board and the clients and bring my experience to the decision making.
“I’m also using my design skills to support the charity’s public relations and social media programme so I’m being creative as well,” said Rita.
She explained that the sense of making a difference through her volunteer role had brought a sense of achievement.
“You know that you are giving something back. You know when you volunteer that someone down the line will benefit from what you are doing and that is very rewarding,” she said.
Ethos is currently recruiting new trustees and is particularly keen to welcome wheelchair users. For further information see the Ethos Group website at www.ethoscharity.co.uk or contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 01691 404359.
Even if you cannot help us as a trustee, please help us spread the word about the work we do to support our clients to live independently after suffering a life-changing injury or illness by liking our Facebook page and following us on Twitter and LinkedIn at ethosgrouposwestry.