How volunteering helped me find the right career
At first, Jenny was simply looking for something to fill her summer holiday, but volunteering with Sense helped her decide upon her career as a special needs teacher. She explains what made the experience so meaningful and what keeps her coming back.
At the end of my first year of university, I was looking for volunteer opportunities to keep me busy over the summer. I saw Sense was recruiting for the accessible holidays it runs for disabled people and I thought I’d give it a try. I loved the experience so much that I now plan my summers around them. Once, I even went on two Sense Holidays in one year!
I was nervous going on my first holiday because I didn’t know what to expect. But the holiday leaders were really supportive, which helped me settle in. Each year, we have such a fun, exciting time. Once, the holiday was in a water sports centre, which was amazing. We went speedboating and paddle boarding and on the hottest day of the trip we all jumped in the water. It’s a lovely memory.
Volunteering on Sense Holidays has been really rewarding. I’ve forged such strong bonds with the holidaymakers and there are so many opportunities to try things that I would never do on my own. I never would have imagined I could take a deafblind person kayaking or abseiling! It’s opened my eyes to what’s possible.
I’m a special needs teacher. I credit Sense with that decision.
I’ve learnt a lot from volunteering with Sense. When I was at university, I knew I wanted to go into teaching, but my experience on Sense Holidays made me realise I could combine that goal with working in special needs education. I’m now a special needs teacher, and I credit Sense with that decision.
Every day at work, I see kids who would love a holiday like the ones Sense organises. I also see parents caring for children with a variety of complex needs and I can see how much some of them need a break from caring, which Sense Holidays helps to provide.
People say they couldn’t do it. But it’s a case of getting over that first hurdle.
I talk about Sense Holidays to my friends and a lot of them say it sounds amazing but that they could never do it. I think it’s a case of getting over that hurdle of not thinking you’re the right person for it. To volunteer with Sense, you just need enthusiasm and to want to join in with different activities.
It helps to understand that, sometimes, simply being there makes a difference – just sitting and having a chat with the people we’re supporting helps create the right experience.
There’s a strong feeling of community at Sense. I missed it during the pandemic, but the lockdown led to me volunteering as a Virtual Buddy, too, a service that helps combat loneliness in disabled people. I chat once a week with my buddy Angus, and we’ve become close friends. Our weekly calls have become a big part of my week.
Volunteering is a lot of fun, but it also gives me a sense of satisfaction. When I started volunteering with Sense, I wanted to get something out of the experience for myself. But when I saw the impact on the people we were supporting, that’s what has kept me coming back – I wanted to keep making a difference for others.