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Volunteer courses during lockdown – by Gus Cairns

13th May 2020

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Let me introduce myself. I am 73 years old and live on my own in an old person’s bungalow in Blacon, a deprived suburb of Chester. I have been in lockdown for seven weeks now. I am Autistic, which was diagnosed when I was 70, nearly four years ago. To make the time go quicker in lockdown, and keep my brain working, I find free courses or people direct me to them.

I volunteer on several groups, and before lockdown I was working closely with Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust as a Service User /Carer Governor, and on a Membership group of Governors. I was also heavily involved with the autism diagnosis team, and I help with the Autism Courses at Recovery Colleges. I also volunteered in mental health for CWP, and I was the Co Chair of the West Cheshire Council Mental Health Partnership Board and Secretary of West Cheshire Mental Health Forum. This all finished when lockdown began – I went from having a busy life to nothing to do every day. I was bored to death and emailing everyone, when one of my friends who works for CWP suggesteed that I look at Helpforce’s website The National Learning Hub for Volunteering, which includes Health Education England courses. I jumped at the chance.

I signed up for it and everything just fell into place, the next day I signed on and started. I learned an awful lot about how much you need to know to be a volunteer. I finished the 15 modules in good time and I did the 15 quizes and got a self printed certificate. I would recommend it to everyone, you learn a lot, it is easy to do, and you get a certificate at no cost. Since then, I have done two Future Learn free Courses and I am doing an open learning course on understanding Autism. I left school with no exams but I now have loads of qualifications up to Level 7 in Strategic Leadership and Management, equivalent to a Post Graduate Degree, and I try to help people with Autism in any way I can.

I like to volunteer with the NHS and I recommend other volunteers join the National Learning Hub for Volunteering. It will set you up with everything you need to play your part in full. All the best to you and I cant wait for this lockdown to finish and we can all get back to our main duties getting the NHS to a lot better place post coronavirus.