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Give it up!

In the first of nine weekly columns celebrating volunteers, we talk to an 18-year-old who spent her half-term helping people with disabilities

Anna Weeks is an 18-year-oldstudent at Casterton school, Kirby Lonsdale, Cumbria. She is taking four A-levels: maths, physics, geography and general studies.

Volunteer role

Residential assistant for a week at a Vitalise (formerly Winged Fellowship Trust) home in Southampton, which provides breaks for disabled adults, children and their carers.

Who inspired you to volunteer?

I was taking my Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award and a friend told me how much she enjoyed her time at Vitalise and thought I would like it too.

Did you receive any training?

We were taught how to manoeuvre wheelchairs, and the daily routine of the guests. But there was always ongoing help from staff, who were great.

What did you enjoy the most?

I was surprised just how good the whole experience was. The social aspect was great. I am still in touch with some of the other volunteers and the guest that I was helping. I really liked chatting to the residents, most of whom were quite elderly, they used to tell me all about their grandchildren. I also enjoyed visiting places around Southampton that I had never seen before when we went out on the trips with the guests.

...And the least?

Being really tired a lot of the time because the day began at eight and we didn't really stop until about midnight.

Has the experience changed you?

Definitely. I am shy, but I learnt that in certain situations that you really have to give it your all: you can't stand back. I had to force myself to make the effort to join in at the beginning, but I now know there really is no need to be shy. It also taught me and my parents, who were quite worried, that I could cope being by myself. It has generally given me much more confidence.

What were your friends' reactions?

Most of them thought I was mad to give up my half-term in February, when they were going on holiday.

Will you volunteer again?

I might go back to the charity shop where I have worked on a Saturday for the past few years, and I had such good fun with Vitalise I will probably do something similar in the next few years.

Would you recommend it?

I talk to people at school about it, particularly those doing their Duke of Edinburgh, and I know a few are going to contact Vitalise.

www.vitalise.org.uk; www.yearofthevolunteer.org

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