Inspirational and impressive are just a couple of words that sprung to mind as I attended my first volunteering session with Sense Active.
Back in November, I had the opportunity to help out at a Sense cycling session at the Tudor Grange Leisure Centre, Solihull. It was my first volunteering session with Sense so I was not too sure what to expect – but was excited to see what the people Sense supports get up to.
Meeting the other volunteers and learning about accessible activities
Upon my arrival I was shown all the different types of bike available, including tricycles, hand bikes, a tandem and bikes that can be strapped to a wheelchair, which I hadn’t seen before.
I was introduced to around 20 people and their support workers, which gave me the opportunity to ask questions about what they enjoyed and whether there had been any particular moments or successes that stood out to them. People frequently mentioned the opportunity to exercise as a key reason for coming along.
One of the support workers, Sunni, was particularly passionate about the opportunities offered by cycling. I was told that independence is an extremely important element, as the sessions give some individuals the chance to cycle independently without relying on anyone else.
The sensory benefits, such as feeling the wind while cycling around the track, as well as the opportunity to watch others and be part of a session, were also important. Another of the support workers, Radcliff, said that he enjoys seeing people in a different environment, and described how this can be quite motivating as well as provide health benefits – including just being outside in the fresh air. Increased confidence was another theme mentioned by many.
For some people, getting on a bike is a big achievement. For others, success is measured quantitatively, such as carrying out more laps than the previous session or cycling faster than ever before. Trying different styles of bike was another common success. One individual at the session, for instance, was learning to ride independently following a recent stroke.
The benefits of physical activity
Having attended the cycling session and spoken to a range of support workers, it’s clear just how big an impact the sports sessions have on many of the people’s lives. It became apparent to me that the activities are not only increasing people’s confidence but also their independence.
Many of the people I met also go ice skating, rock climbing and sailing. After just one session of volunteering I’m keen to discover what other opportunities are available – and the benefits these bring to the people Sense supports.
To find out more about how you can volunteer for Sense Active, please email Callan Barber on firstname.lastname@example.org.