What’s your name and what you do?
My name is Kerri and I work in fashion merchandising for a well-known high-street retailer.
Why did you volunteer on the holiday?
For years I’d been thinking about learning British Sign Language but I wanted to make sure I could use my new skills for the benefit of other people. So, before I started BSL lessons I researched different deaf charities and found Sense. I loved the idea that they are creating holidays for young people and adults with disabilities, that enable them to take part in different activities and experiences that many would assume they couldn’t.
Who or what has inspired you to take part in the holiday? Someone you know personally or someone you’ve met through Sense?
Actually, before I volunteered with Sense I’d never met anyone with communication disabilities besides my BSL tutors who were all deaf. It was reading the testimonials from holiday makers, their families and other volunteers that inspired me. I used the goal of volunteering on a Sense holiday as motivation when I was going through my BSL level 1 and 2 qualifications.
What impact did you think the holiday had on the people who we support?
The holidays have a really positive impact. They’re an opportunity to have loads of new experiences, to make new friends and get used to being away from their family and daily routine. The first time I volunteered on a holiday one of the goals was for the holiday maker to gain a bit more independence and it was great to see him do that.
Why do you think Sense holidays are so important for the families of the people going on the holiday?
I think it gives the family a bit of respite. Particularly if there are other children in the family who might not get as much focus as they want because of the support the holiday maker needs, they can be the focus of their parent’s attention. In some cases, it might give them a break from the intensity of caring for someone who needs a lot of personal care or constant attention.
What help and support did you get from the holidays team?
The holidays team were great. Before the holiday I went to a volunteer’s day where you meet the other volunteers from your holiday and start to learn about the people you’ll be supporting. I would have been so much more nervous before my first holiday if I hadn’t had that day. During the holiday itself they come and visit each group, lending an extra hand for a few hours and making sure they’ve met all the holiday makers and volunteers. It’s great to be able to meet the people who are doing all the behind the scenes work to make everything run smoothly.
Is going on a Sense holiday brand new for you or have you done anything similar before with another organisation?
Going on a Sense holiday was a brand new experience for me. I did my first Sense holiday during the Easter holidays in 2018 and loved it so much I came back and volunteered for another holiday during the summer programme.
Was there anything about the holiday that was particularly challenging for you?
I was really worried that because what I do for work is completely unrelated to what the volunteering entails that I wouldn’t be as affective as other volunteers. I met a lot of volunteers who work within social care, medicine, speech and language therapists and I was quite intimidated. Luckily everyone is also so friendly, supportive and encouraging this didn’t last long. Enthusiasm, a willingness to get stuck in and a caring attitude goes a long way on a Sense holiday.
If you’ve been on a Sense holiday before, what was it that encouraged you to come back and volunteer for Sense again?
I’ve just done the two Sense holidays so far but there wasn’t any doubt that I wanted to volunteer again after the first holiday. It’s such a unique but completely rewarding experience. You make a real connection with the person you’re supporting and each new experience they have and skill they learn, no matter how small, feels like a personal triumph.
If someone was interested in volunteering for a Sense holiday, but wasn’t 100% sure, what would you say to convince them?
I’d tell them to just go for it. Speak to other volunteers and the volunteer team at Sense about all their concerns. Chances are whatever it is that’s making them not 100%, someone else has felt the same way and they’ll be someone who can reassure them or just provide more info. It’s an intense week but so worthwhile.
Is there anything you’d like to say to the people you supported, or their family?
I’d say thank you for trusting a group of strangers to care for them and create these amazing holidays that are so rewarding for the volunteers as well as the holiday makers.
The holiday makers and families I’ve met have been such characters and it was amazing to have met and supported them for a short time.
Meet new people, try new challenges, explore new ways of communicating and visit new places – all whilst supporting disabled people to enjoy these experiences too!