Volunteers are the backbone of The Autonomie Family. Without them, much of the work we do would not be possible.
Nicole is a student at Cumbria University and she studies Youth and Community Work. Nicole has recently completed a placement at Autonomie. As part of her placement, Nicole has been working alongside Gary, a young person who uses Autonomie’s services. He is also a volunteer at Autonomie!
Gary is aged 25 and as well as an Autonomie service-user, Gary volunteers at Autonomie as part of the Millennium Volunteers Programme. In January 2018 Gary achieved a MV50 Award, which recognised his commitment for his first 50 hours of volunteering. This week he successfully completed 100 hours of volunteering and has been awarded a MV100 Award for his accomplishments. Gary has plans to commit an impressive 200 hours of volunteering at Autonomie and reach the highest accolade for this commitment - The MV200 Award of Excellence.
Gary has this week reached his impressive 100 hours volunteering milestone. On accepting his award, he said “I am ecstatic, I didn’t think I’d do it.” Gary’s aim is to work towards 200 hours of volunteering at Autonomie and “become a regular volunteer like everyone else” he said.
Tell us what you do at Autonomie?
Gary: I volunteer here on a Tuesday and have started volunteering on a Thursday also. I meet and greet visitors and make tea and coffee. I help Marie who does the cleaning here at Lilac House and this helps me learn new skills. I also helped Robert plan the Boys Night In at Lilac House. I also volunteer at Freedom2Choose and this makes me feel accomplished.
What do you like best about your role at Autonomie?
Gary: The exciting craic all to do with Lilac House. I am thrilled at my achievement in getting a good job like this here at Lilac House. Lynne (Training Officer) makes a negative a positive. When my volunteering role at Belfast City Council fell through Lynne helped me get a role here.
What do you like best about taking part in Millennium Volunteers at Autonomie?
Gary: It has taught me how to believe in myself and gave me great qualifications and the extra push when needed. For example, the extra volunteering to increase my social skills. All the staff are brilliant as they make you feel an extra bit special because they sprinkle the sunshine on the Autonomie circle.
What do you like most about Lilac House?
Gary: I like the way the trustees have made it very professionally adapted for disabled people’s disabilities. Especially the way they got the shower in, the shower looks great. I can’t wait to use it.
What has been your role at Autonomie?
Nicole: My work has involved working with Gary on a one-to-one basis on a Tuesday and more recently on a Thursday as well; helping him further develop his independent living skills.
I have also been visiting mainstream youth centres, assessing them and giving talks to young people to train them on disability awareness.
Tell us about your role working alongside Gary?
Nicole: The goal has been to develop Gary’s independent living skills. We have worked on areas such as money management. Last week Gary and I went to Maggie Mays (a café in Belfast) - Gary took responsibly for looking after the money, he had to order his own meal and then go up and pay for the meal. Gary kept the receipt and gave it back to Lynne at Autonomie. Whilst we were out learning independent living skills, Gary had to go into a shop and buy a colleague a can of diet coke.
Tell us about your work assessing mainstream youth centres in Belfast?
Nicole: I assessed several popular youth centres in Belfast and the purpose of my work was to offer disability awareness training to young people.
What were your findings?
Nicole: My findings show there are a lot of improvements needed to make mainstream youth centres more accessible to young people with additional needs. One youth club didn’t even have a lift.
Did you get involved in any further opportunities during your placement?
Nicole: Yes, on Friday’s over a 4 week period I visited Malone College in Belfast. I delivered disability awareness to a Year 9 class. It was great to spread awareness among young people.
Nicole has now completed her placement at Autonomie and is off to the USA to work in a summer camp in Michigan before taking up her final year undergrad degree studies in September 2018.
Gary continues to be a service-user and volunteer at Autonomie and is committed to achieving his MV200 Award! He hopes to get a chance to try independent living at Lilac House as part of new What Next? Programme’s Independent Living experience which starts in Summer 2018.