As regular readers will know, since 2008 I have had live-in volunteers, 12 in total from countries around the world. What you may not be aware of is that in early January I ended this for a number of reasons I will discuss below, and started to employ traditional personal assistants at the weekends and evening, starting a new chapter after almost a decade of sharing my home with volunteers.
Like many things in my life, the volunteering scheme run by Volunteering Matters played an important role in supporting me to grow an develop into the people I am now. Having someone live with me providing me with the security I needed at a time when I felt vulnerable. It enabled me to build friendships with people I would not normally meet due to our differing backgrounds and in return, they have had the opportunity to get a real insight to living with someone with cerebral palsy.
I found it to be a great interdependent relationship where while they physically supported me, I could play the role of older brother and host. The best times with my volunteers were when they supported me with my travels, which I found very empowering and when the scheme worked at its best.
The volunteers were not always perfect and not without their problems but they were the right solution at the time. Each volunteer brought different qualities to the role and seem to play their own part in my development, even if it was how annoying they were made me more independent.
The core reason I gave up the scheme was that from this January they were no longer allowed to prepare medication in any project. Since this was the fundamental main reason I needed them, I had little choice to end my relationship with Volunteering Matter. I could have argued a solution but they were other factors that confirmed my decision.
I was annoyed at how their decision was simply announced without consultation or consideration. For me, it was as stupid as a hospital announcing their nurses will no longer handle blood. They gave no explanation to why they made the changes but I would suggest something went wrong in another project and they decided upon a risk evasive response.
Their decision came at a time when I was also reflecting upon the suitability of having volunteers in the for long term for a range of reasons. My need for stability and security had now been met in other ways and moving into a fully accessible ground floor flat in the centre of the city has provided me with more independence. I am not sure I wanted to continue trying to overcome the communication and culture barriers of having a volunteer in return for the support I now needed.
I also felt that Volunteering Matters decided to stop their volunteers managing medication was likely to just be a first step in ending providing support to disabled people generally because, in an era of rules and regulations, the projects had a level of risk to them the modern profit-driven third sector is not interested in. I had seen the organisation gradually lose its understanding and interest in these projects as staff committed to helping people with impairments had been replaced with third sector metropolitan bureaucrats.
It is the end of an era and a chapter full of wonderful memories and no regrets, but everything in life has a beginning, middle and an end. and this was my end for now with have live-in volunteers.