Volunteers' Week 2019: Ziggy's Story

This 1-7th June marks national Volunteers’ Week. To celebrate, we sat down for a chat with one of our newest volunteers on their time at Headway. Here's Ziggy's story. 

Ziggy

Volunteer, Ziggy has been with us for nearly a year after being impacted by brain injury in March 2018, when her brother, who had been a fire fighter for many years was a victim of a stroke. After her brother had spent nine months recovering in hospital, Ziggy was still struggling to adjust to the effects the stroke had had on him. While visiting him during his recovery, she came across a poster that inspired her to take action: “I noticed Headway’s poster saying ‘Do you think you could help people with brain injuries?” I personally wanted support, with how I was feeling about my brother and what had happened. I rang the number and I was able to talk to someone which I found very supportive. I wasn’t working at the time so I had time to support my brother and go to the hospital every Monday and be part of his recovery, but at the same I wanted to do something, because I’m a do-er, so I thought, well why don’t you volunteer for Headway?” 

"I thought because of my history of working with people with disabilities, I could help bring people out of themselves, and just talk, to communicate. That’s so important."

After working in various positions of care for over 27 years, Ziggy saw an opportunity to share her skills, learn more about life after brain injury and be part of the local community: “I worked in a school for ten years so I was used to that and then all of a sudden I felt isolated. I thought because of my history of working with people with disabilities, I could help bring people out of themselves, and just talk, to communicate. That’s so important.” 

On her experience of adjusting to the effects of her brother’s stroke, and her motivation for becoming a volunteer with Headway East London, Ziggy commented, “What I found really hard was realising, as I pushed my brother out of the hospital in a wheelchair into Queens Square, that this was my brother – I'm pushing him in a wheelchair, he’s in a hoist, I couldn’t get my head around it. It was very personal to me. But at the same time, because of my past work, I had the ability to be able to support him more so than others, who maybe didn’t know how to use the wheelchair or even what to say to him because he couldn’t really communicate. That motivated me to check out Headway East London, so I made a call and here I am. I missed working with disabled people. But it’s also new; these people weren't born disabled, they acquired it at some point in their life, and I thought that could be a new thing for me to experience.” 

"What I loved was that you didn’t know who was a member, nobody was labelled, I was just like, ‘wow I like this place’."

When asked how she has found volunteering at the day centre she said, ‘It could be a pride thing for me to say “Why would I want to do voluntary work? I’ve been working most of my life, getting paid for what I do and I have all this experience, why would I want to volunteer?’ But that doesn’t matter to me at the end of the day, I just thought, I want to be part of a team. And I’ve loved it. When I first walked in, everyone was having lunch and I couldn’t believe the atmosphere, it was so calm and everyone was smiling. What I loved was that you didn’t know who was a member, nobody was labelled, I was just like, ‘wow I like this place’. The staff are so supportive, some places you don’t get that, it’s like one big family, one big unit.” 

 

She continued, “It’s given me confidence. I got to fundraise, doing a car boot and I loved that, I had a passion for it. It’s been a real godsend and it’s helped me personally with supporting my brother and his injury, to accept the fact that this is how my brother can look and be. When I came here my eyes were opened to a lot of people and what they can overcome.” 

"That’s a real highlight for me, asking people what they like to do, encouraging them to give it a go. I could see her building her confidence and just flourishing."

Ziggy’s passion for volunteering stems from the desire to see others thrive. Speaking about her highlights at the day centre, she said, “There was one woman in particular, who usually would just sit and chat with you, and one day I asked her if she’d like to play pool. She’d never done it before and she got up and started playing and she’s been playing ever since. Apparently she used to have her own snooker club, and she’s very good at playing pool. And that’s a real highlight for me, asking people what they like to do, encouraging them to give it a go. I could see her building her confidence and just flourishing.” 

Volunteering at Headway East London often means getting the opportunity to be part of public events and creative projects alongside brain injury survivors, as Ziggy recalled, “Another highlight is performing at Chatsworth Palace for The Colour of Jazz musical fundraising event. I loved that. Last week we also went to a conference to perform in the choir too. Being asked to be a part of things like that is a really beautiful thing.”   

Volunteers are vital to the work that Headway East London does, working alongside the staff team to run activities and spending quality time with brain injury survivors. 

We are currently open to volunteer applications, to find out more information or to apply, visit:  http://bit.ly/HELvolunteer