Volunteers’ Week 2021
Headway Essex volunteers come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. Everyone has skills and time they are prepared to give. The reward is knowing their help contributes to making peoples’ lives better.
At Headway Essex we are so grateful to all our amazing volunteers. We would not be able to help so many people without their unselfish support.
In Volunteers’ Week, we hear from Maggie Cooper who has volunteered with Headway Essex since 1987.
People Were Desperate for Help
I first became interested in brain injury when I worked at Colchester Hospital as a Speech and Language Therapist. I realised there was little opportunity for people with communication difficulties following a brain injury, to socialise, make friends as well as improve their skills.
I was there when Headway started as a coffee evening where 40 people turned up desperate for help. We realised how lacking in support these people were. That was in 1987 and I have been a volunteer ever since as well as its chairman for 12 years and a trustee of National Headway.
Volunteering is an Important Part of My Life
With my good friend and education tutor, Annabelle Glover, we set up a group for people with communication problems in 1981 as part of Clacton Stroke Group. We subsequently set up a group in Harwich. Then we started a similar class when Headway acquired a bungalow on the grounds of Severalls Hospital in Colchester.
In 1990 after researching why we still had attendees who were unable to make friends and hold down a job we added another group for those who needed help with their social skills. These were the ‘walking wounded’ who had no outward signs of disability but were often socially inappropriate.
Now it has become an important part of my life, as it has with the other loyal volunteers. What makes the work fascinating, is we never know how the morning will turn out. We see so much improvement as the service users settle in, relax and progress towards their goals. It is never boring and although we are caring we are there to say it as it is. This way we help survivors to find the balance between hope and reality.
Volunteers Come from All Walks of Life
It is a post-rehabilitation setting when the attenders start to develop, greater self-esteem, confidence, and new skills. Our valuable volunteers come from all walks of life, from students at the university, some hoping to go into care work as well as those who are retired and have a few hours to spare to do something worthwhile.
Volunteering is so Worthwhile
Some of the comments made by those who have survived brain injury illustrate their journey,
“The whole sky was dark and really black up there but now the clouds are moving away and only part of the sky is dark”
“I’ve got a lot of living to do. I want to wear my scars with pride because I survived.”
I think it can be expressed in a card I received from one man who has been attending and now was strong enough to face the big wide world.
Before coming to Headway Essex “People manipulated me and used me as a tool. This made me angry but you have my interest at heart and you give me the quality of life. You are honest and I am grateful to you always.”
It has been lovely to see everyone enjoy themselves at the Christmas lunches, BBQs, and trips out, putting their newly acquired skills into practice. This makes it so worthwhile.
Headway Essex Volunteer
There are many different volunteer opportunities at Headway across Essex from working directly with brain injury survivors to admin support, gardening, mini-bus drivers, and fundraising. You can find out more about current opportunities on our volunteer website page.