Volunteering with a disability

Posted on the 4th June 2018

I had been volunteering at the visitor’s centre in a prison for about six or seven years but they changed how they did things and I thought it got boring so I wanted something different.

I went to the Shaw Trust, which finds disabled people volunteering placements and, after having a chat, the lady there said ‘I’ve got just the role for you … The Norfolk & Norwich Hospital’. I wasn’t too keen but said ‘um, ok, well let’s just go and have a look’. So, I had an interview with the Volunteer Services at the hospital. I was a bit unsure at first, as it was so big, but I decided I’d give it a go.

Christine McKenzie, visitor's centre volunteer at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital

Christine McKenzie, visitor's centre volunteer at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital

I came in on a taster day and was given another volunteer to go round with – she directed me where to go for my lunch and then said to come back to where we were. All the staff were very good, putting things on my tray for me, taking it to the table and making sure I was ok. Afterwards, I went to meet my volunteer buddy again and she said ‘did you get lost?’ I said ‘Yes, a little bit, but everyone was so helpful!’

I’m now in my seventh year and love it. I get such a buzz, everyone waves and says hello to me. They don’t see my wheelchair … just me!

About the role

In my meet and greet role I take people where they need to go. Giving directions is ok but sometimes I take them. The visitors and patients are really nice and appreciate what I do. I get so much satisfaction from being able to help them and the staff too. It’s amazing how good helping others makes you feel.

There is always something to do, and I’m never looking for things, which is good because I’m not one for sitting and waiting for things to happen! I always feel that I’m being useful.

I came in after Christmas thinking that it wouldn’t be busy as there are no clinics or visitors, so I went into inpatients and was greeted with ‘You’re here! Brilliant! We’ve got jobs for you!’ They were really pleased to see me!

I’m now in my seventh year and love it. I get such a buzz, everyone waves and says hello to me. They don’t see my wheelchair … just me!

Christine McKenzie

Overcoming barriers

I love my volunteering, but I’ve had to overcome a few barriers. In some departments, you need to use your swipe card to get in and my ID badge didn’t reach from my chair, so the voluntary services manager arranged for me to have an extendable lead for my badge. Now I can reach up to swipe the card more easily.

I sometimes have difficulty getting people to take me seriously. One day a man came in and I knew he was lost, but when I asked if I could help him, he said ‘no I’m fine’. He then came back later and was still lost. He asked the Auxiliary Nurse where the clinic was, but she didn’t know so I said, ‘I know where it is, I’ll take you’. I took him to his clinic and he apologised for assuming I wouldn’t be able to help. Once I said to someone ‘Can I help you?’ and they said ‘where do you want to go?’ I said ‘No, I work here and I want to help you!’

The volunteer managers say that I’m inspirational as I tackle any barriers head on and don’t let people ignore me. But I know I can here because they will always support me. I have become much stronger and more confident as a person.

This is the best place I’ve volunteered. I can’t pinpoint the best moment, I’ve made new friends and everyone really appreciates what I do. I would definitely recommend volunteering at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital to other disabled people as they look after you and appreciate you for your talents.

Christine McKenzie

Christine McKenzie has been a volunteer at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital visitor's centre for over six years.

Read more posts

Coronavirus and Volunteers’ Week 2020

Thursday 16th April

Volunteers’ Week takes place 1 – 7 June every year....

How a rainy day led to a volunteering opportunity at the Museum of London

Friday 7th June

It was a rainy day, in an otherwise dry Autumn,...

Helping children play at Derbyshire Toy Library

Friday 7th June

I moved to Belper seven years ago. At the time...