My first experience of Richmond AID was when I walked past and went to the library next door. I was advised by the Jobcentre to apply for Disability Living Allowance and I remembered walking past Richmond AID so went there to see if I could get a form. When I came in, I remember it distinctly, because I came in through the back door. It was packed and there were a lot of people in wheelchairs. I remember thinking I don’t have a disability and everybody would be too busy to support me because I wasn’t disabled enough. I spoke to Andy on reception and he phoned up for me to get the DLA form. I was very shaken at the time trying to come to terms with everything. I went home, got completely freaked out about the size of the form and did not fill it in. I was very depressed at the time and did very little for the next six months. I live alone and was too frightened and anxious to go out of the house on my own. I often didn’t speak to people for days at a time.
A friend convinced me to do some volunteering to encourage me back into the world. Although I was very nervous about it I went to the Volunteer Fair run by Richmond CVS. I met Alex from Richmond AID who told me about the various volunteer opportunities and the role of reception cover. As it is only one hour per week on reception I felt like I could cope with this. I started on reception about a year ago and have been coming in every week for my hour slot and more recently have started to help with the job club. My background was in recruitment so it was great to use my skills.
At the first job club session I attended it was like there was a light switch that went on in my head and my previous experience and skills flooded back for a moment. Volunteering on reception and on the Job Club has really increased my confidence. At the start I was too afraid to talk to anyone now I feel like part of the team.
As well as volunteering I also asked for help with my DLA form and have received the higher rate DLA. Now I am applying for Employment Support Allowance for the second time and while it is still very stressful I do feel more supported this time.
I still have wobbly moments and still have times when I am very depressed and I’m in a lot of pain but coming to Richmond AID, being a part of things has made me feel like I’m part of something and I’ve got something to offer.
I feel incredibly involved in Richmond AID, part of the family rather than someone who just pops in for an hour a week. What’s made the difference is the attitude of the staff and other volunteers at Richmond AID who are so welcoming, friendly and empathic.