When Charlotte was diagnosed with Guillian Barre Syndrome (GBS) five years ago, her life changed dramatically. GBS affects the nervous system and causes muscle weakness, which meant Charlotte was unable to continue to work. Determined not to give in to her illness, Charlotte has dedicated herself to volunteering and is now busier than ever!
Charlotte hadn’t set out to become a volunteer, she fell into it almost by accident. She had started taking adult education courses at her daughter’s school, and was encouraged by her tutor to take the Reading Friends course. Although Charlotte had initially no interest in volunteering in schools, she enjoyed the course immensely, and has now been volunteering in her daughter’ school for two years. Being a Reading Friends volunteer involves sitting with 3 children for 20 minutes each, once a week, and helping them to read, understand what they are reading and, most importantly, helping them to enjoy reading.
Charlotte loves this role. It is flexible and fits around her lifestyle and her medical condition and she has found that being able to give something back to the community while learning new skills has really boosted her confidence. She loves it when the children start to really engage with the books. At first they are often quiet and withdrawn, but after three or four weeks they start to open up and show an interest in the book. They become more chatty and when they start to laugh with you at something you are reading, or make connections themselves between different characters or different books, then you know you’ve really made a difference to that child’s reading level. Charlotte finds it immensely rewarding: “The more attention you give them the more they blossom and start to engage. They tell you everything about other books they’re reading in class as well as everything they did at the weekend!”
As well as being a Reading Friend, Charlotte is also a founder member and Chair of the school’s PTA, a peer mentor for the How Schools Work course, she runs an online support group for people with Sepsis and has just been asked to be lead volunteer for Yorkshire by the national charity. Volunteering is certainly keeping her busy!