Rhea

Introducing some of our current re:fresh volunteers

Current volunteer roles: Gym buddy

Years of service: Four years

Brief description of current role:  I started volunteering at Blackburn Leisure Centre whilst studying my second year in ‘Health and Personal Training’ at Blackburn university in 2017. I was required as a unit on my course to volunteer within an area of my choice.  This is when I found out about how the re:fresh team have volunteers which offer gym members who may be partially sighted along with other medical conditions support whilst using the gym, pool and/or attending fitness classes.  The application process was simple and within weeks I was paired up to support Paul who is a partially sighted member and regularly loves to attend the gym.

My role includes helping Paul to safely navigate around the gym and set up gym equipment. With me also being qualified in fitness I am able to provide him with his personal program and fitness goals. However, don’t let this put you off volunteering as the refresh team are brilliant and will provide all the help and support you need along with the option of completing free courses if you want to become qualified and learn more (although this isn’t essential!). 

Part of what Paul loves about his gym visits is the social interaction, having somebody else to talk to – myself! This helping his mental health along with his physical health. A weekly chat with someone can mean a lot more than you may think. 

Whilst to me I feel rewarded that Paul fully trusts me to take over from his guide dog (who we leave in the gym office!) and allow me to teach and help him progress. It is also lovely that I know Paul enjoys talking to me and truly appreciates my help even 4 years on.

How has your role changed during the pandemic? Unfortunately during the difficult year of lockdown and restrictions in place I haven’t been able to attend the gym with Paul. Although our weekly chats now over the phone have continued. I always smile when I can hear him laugh by the end of our call!

What do you enjoy most about being a re:fresh volunteer?  I wanted to work with people with disabilities, as it has always been something close to me and I strongly believe all people should have equal opportunities.

What would you say to someone thinking of volunteering?  My volunteer role led me to becoming a casual member of staff at Blackburn leisure centre once I graduated in 2018. To which I am now contracted and a regular face within the centre. This shows how hard work and experience does pay off.  I will still remain a volunteer in this support role for Paul.  Hopefully we will soon be able to return to the centre. Whilst if any of you reading this see me around the centre and are either interested in volunteering or you want help and support yourself please don’t be afraid to chat to me.  I will always try my best to accommodate or put you in contact with someone who can help.

Are you interested in joining the re:fresh volunteers team?

Do you have an hour or more to spare during the week? Are you interested in helping serve the community? Are you looking to enhance your skills?

Get in touch with us to find out more about the re:fresh volunteers team. For an informal chat or to express an interest please get in touch with:
Maahira Hasham: 01254 507955/07929179068 maahira.hasham@blackburn.gov.uk

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