Congratulations to Elaine, our Volunteering Project Manager and a previous client, who has received a Community Safety Award from Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue for her valuable voluntary work on their Safe Drive Stay Alive roadshow, which she has been a part of for the last 4 years.
Elaine’s life was changed forever when she was knocked off her motorbike in 2011, by a driver who was using his mobile phone. After several operations, Elaine has been left with constant, severe lower back pain and her left leg has been amputated just below the knee. It also ended her career in the army.
“My whole world was affected. My work life completely changed, I was medically discharged from the army. I remember going into where I had worked following my injuries and just thinking that I am not part of this anymore. Everything had moved on and I simply didn’t belong.”
Elaine was introduced to Step Together through her Personnel Recovery Unit. Volunteering was something she already did and had done for many years, as a Duke of Edinburgh Award Leader and Assessor. Unemployed, isolated and with nothing to do, Elaine knew she needed to get involved with other volunteering opportunities, to get her out of the house, to meet new people and find a new purpose and direction.
“Whilst I was not working, it was my volunteering that really helped my recovery. Many people serving in the Armed Forces are invariably away from their hometowns and family, move around a lot and their friends are the people they work with.
When this is suddenly taken away from you it can be very isolating. I was extremely grateful for the friends I had made outside of work through my volunteering. One friend from my DofE group was even there to visit me in hospital straight after it had happened. This support network, along with having something to look forward to each week, was what really kept me going. I felt that I hadn’t lost everything.”
Following her motorbike accident, Elaine really wanted to do some volunteering related to road safety. Frances from Step Together introduced her to the Safe Drive Stay Alive roadshow run by Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue. The hard-hitting roadshow is designed to raise awareness of the nature and extent of personal tragedy that road traffic collisions cause. Frances was there to support Elaine in taking up the opportunity and Elaine has gone on to do 10-15 shows every year since 2013.
“I share my story and I like knowing that I am raising awareness and helping others to be safer so they don’t end up causing a collision with devastating effects that has on someone’s life.”
In January 2014, knowing how much volunteering had benefitted her personally; Elaine started working for Step Together as a Volunteering Project Manager. She supports wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans to engage in community volunteering as part of their recovery and resettlement.
“The best part of the job is knowing that you are making a difference to someone’s life. I meet people who aren’t able to see a future and who are at a real low. It’s rewarding to be able to find them an opportunity that really suits them as an individual. I know first-hand the positive benefits that volunteering can have. I tell my clients about my own experiences as a way of showing what volunteering can lead to. I have been in that place where you are just sat at home staring at the walls. Now I am in a job I enjoy and I am still volunteering.”
Elaine also volunteers for the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Air Ambulance, who airlifted her to hospital from her accident, runs a Help for Heroes Polo Team and is also a volunteer ski biking instructor with Blesma. This just goes to show the variety of volunteering roles that are out there for people to get involved with and the positive impact it can have to know that you are helping others in your community.