Setting the wheels in motion to becoming a volunteer
LEANNE Owen wants to drive home an important message. She says that disabled people can make excellent volunteers, but they need to be given the chance to show off their skills. Leanne, 22, has cerebral palsy and is one of 10 youngsters living at Leonard
LEANNE Owen wants to drive home an important message.
She says that disabled people can make excellent volunteers, but they need to be given the chance to show off their skills.
Leanne, 22, has cerebral palsy and is one of 10 youngsters living at Leonard Cheshire's Young Persons' Unit at Lavender Fields in Hitchin.
She has joined a new initiative to help disabled people become volunteers, giving them the opportunity to put their valuable talents into action.
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The common portrayal of disabled people as the recipients of volunteering will hopefully be banished by a new toolkit that aims to ease their movement into charity work.
Leanne said: "I'm really keen to volunteer, but so many organisations are just totally inaccessible."
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Leanne's desire to dispel the myths about disabled people has been enhanced by past experiences.
She said: "They've said my wheelchair is a hazard, they didn't understand me or the way I am but if they gave me the time I can do a lot more than they think I can.
"Disabled people have the right to be treated equally."
Leanne is keen to volunteer her skills to a good cause and hopes that organisations will become more willing to take her on.
"I'd like more opportunities for people to get to know me and get to know what I can do," she said.
"I want to work with children in schools and help them to learn to read. I've also done four years of IT and would like to use my IT skills and do some volunteering designing for others.
"It would be good to work with other people and I would like to help more people like me get more confident about being disabled.
"I think people often don't get to know you properly before they judge you."
Leanne says she could spare her time once or twice a week and despite admitting she can get nervous meeting new people, she is confident that if people were to look past her wheelchair they'd see a bright, intelligent person.
"Unless people come and see me, they often just see my wheelchair.
"I'm quite independent and I just see myself as an able-body, so I try to do anything an able-bodied person does but in a wheelchair.
"I'm very positive and I don't let my disability get in the way.
"I think I'm outgoing and I do make a lot of people laugh, in fact I could be a sit-down comedian."
The initiative, which Leanne has been involved in and given her thoughts to, will hopefully help her achieve her goals
Partly organised by the charity Scope, a disability organisation focusing on cerebral palsy, the scheme will help both volunteers and those groups who employ volunteers.
Udeni Salmon, head of volunteer support at Leonard Cheshire, said: "The toolkit will enable managers of volunteers to include young disabled people in their volunteering opportunities.
"It will support and promote young disabled people as active and equal citizens, who have the same right to volunteer as everyone else"
Leanne contributed her experiences and aspirations to the project's development.
She said: "There were eight of us in a group, with similar disabilities to me, and we said what we think about volunteering and they gave us advice about how we can get into it and who would be best to approach.
"I've been given the information, I now need to look into what I can do."
If you think you or your organisation can offer Leanne the chance to volunteer her time and skills, please get in contact with The Comet on 01438 866000 or email lizzy.seal@the comet.net