24-year-old Po Han travelled to the UK from Taiwan to become a full-time volunteer. He supported Terry, an older gentleman from Brixton who suffered a stroke and also has a minor learning disability.
“My role involved supporting Terry in his home. He needed help when moving from his bed to his armchair or wheelchair, and his support workers taught me how to operate the ceiling hoist. I also helped to keep the house clean and tidy, and reminded him to take his medication.
In the beginning, I felt awkward when assisting with personal care, which I believe is normal if you have never done it before. Fortunately, that initial awkwardness doesn’t last long. Preserving someone’s dignity, and helping them to become more independent, is a very rewarding part of my volunteering.
In addition to supporting Terry at home, I took part in a befriending project once a week. I met people with learning disabilities, autism and Down’s syndrome in a local day centre, where they could take part in dancing, singing and creative activities. This was the most challenging and the most worthwhile part of my volunteer experience. It really helped to develop my communication and empathy skills, and my ability to improvise. For example, I met someone who particularly struggles with numbers, but learnt that through visualising the numbers with him he could understand and count with ease.
I am really grateful for the experiences I have gained through volunteering. I have learnt practical skills, including first aid, sling fitting and hoist moving, but I also feel that I have become more patient and empathetic. Most importantly, I have learnt that flexibility really matters in every aspect of life.
I feel that I have made a positive impact in my time as a volunteer, supporting people to live the life they choose, empowering them to participate in community activities and helping them to find talents that they might have been previously unaware of. This experience has really inspired me, and I’m hoping to work for a hospital in the future.”