A few weeks ago, after having had an assignment for my dissertation at the start of term 2 put an enormous amount of pressure and stress on my shoulders, I decided to take advantage of the subsequently more relaxed period, and got involved in some volunteering. I chose Kenilworth Phab, a volunteering project I had heard a lot about, but had never volunteered with. My choice could not have been better.
Kenilworth Phab is a group where disabled and non-disabled adults from the Kenilworth, Coventry, Leamington, and Warwick areas meet weekly to enjoy social activities together, in an environment of equality and integration. Activities include bowling, arts and crafts, sports, meals out, as well as student-led nights, such as salsa and drumming workshops.
On the bus towards the venue I met another volunteer, also a student at the university, with whom I immediately clicked. As soon as we arrived, we were welcomed by the joyous members of the club and Ms. Gwen, a lovely lady who helps run the club. I was immediately moved when one of the members, whom I had only seen before a few times during other volunteering activities on campus, quite a long time ago in fact, remembered my name.
That night was games night, and soon we started playing. I spent most of my time in the company of around four gentlemen and the girl I met on the bus. We played pool, or mini-pool I should day (as you can see in the picture below), a game involving rolling a die and creating a figure with small pieces, as well as a game involving hitting some pieces of wood with a ball suspended by a small chain. The latter seemed quite trivial at first, yet proved quite demanding.
It was great fun. We learnt sophisticated techniques of playing pool from each other, and we engaged in various conversations, regarding the members` free time and passions, as well as my activities, hobbies, and endeavours.
I have to admit that on some level, the experience was a little bit challenging, as I was feeling a sort of slight reticence and uncertainty regarding whether my behaviour was appropriate. But the atmosphere was so relaxed and warm, and the people around me were all so friendly, that I immediately started to feel at ease and fully comfortable. When the session ended and we had to depart, it felt as if the good-bye waves and hugs were not enough…
The Kenilworth Phab project is amazing, because it focuses on ability, rather than on disability. The simple interaction and the building of relationships with volunteers, who are usually younger and who come from a different background than the members, contribute towards increasing their self-confidence and improving their social skills.
But it isn`t just the members of Phab who benefit from this interaction. You, as a volunteer, benefit as well. I remember that right before I left for the session, I was quite stressed, both about the academic requirements I need to meet to progress to further studies, and the amount of work I need to do in the coming weeks. However, I was so captivated by the members` joy, and their liveliness has been so contagious, that all my worries vanished, without even me noticing. And the benefits of volunteering with Kenilworth Phab extend well beyond recreation and meeting new people. You also have a chance to develop as a person, as a human being. You also learn how to adapt to the needs of each member and how to communicate effectively; sometimes, you`ll probably also need gestures, not just words, to get your message across.
The Kenilworth Phab Club meets on Wednesdays, 7.30 to 9.45pm. If you live in Kenilworth, that`s very convenient. However, even from campus, buses such as X17 or 11 take just a few minutes, and volunteers usually travel together from campus (also, remember the bus fare is reimbursed!!!). It is recommended that you try to make a regular commitment, so you can really get to know the members.
The group welcomes old and new volunteers throughout term, so it’s not too late to sign up!
For more information, visit:
Remember that this week (20th-26th of February 2017), Student Volunteering Week is taking place. Student Volunteering Week is a national celebration of the positive impact students have on their communities through volunteering. We’ve organised a range of activities throughout the week which you can get involved with. More information on these activities and sign up forms can be found at: www.warwick.ac.uk/oneoffvolunteering.
Also, do not forget about the Warwick Volunteers social this coming Friday, 24th of Feb 2017, between 5-7pm, in MR4/5, SUHQ.