How volunteering changed someone’s life



This month of our 30th anniversary year, we want to turn the spotlight on our fantastic team of volunteers. We were founded by volunteers, and volunteers remain at the heart of everything we do. Ste Unsworth, who has been involved with Back Up since 2003, writes about volunteering and how it changed his life. 

My first Back Up experience was in 2003, which was five years after an accident left me permanently paralysed. The course I went on was amazing. I was actively involved on doing things I had never thought possible since I had become injured in 1998; activities such as kayaking, wind surfing and hiking to name but a few! It opened my eyes to how much life was still in me.

However, following the course, I got stuck back into my old routine and did not progress much, until after finding myself back at a low ebb I decided I needed Back Up’s help once more.

This led to me applying for another multi activity week in Keswick, Cumbria, around 5 years later as my self confidence and self esteem had lapsed, and this course totally changed my life and my perception of what I was capable of doing as a wheelchair user.

I was fortunate enough to room with somebody of a similar level of injury, and by seeing what he achieved day to day inspired me to take a look at myself and see that there was so much more I was capable of.

I went home a transformed person to a point where it changed my lifestyle completely, but wasn’t really expecting anything more to become from the adventure I had.  I was wrong.  Sean from Back Up approached me to get involved as a wheelchair skills trainer shortly after the course and I reluctantly agreed, shortly followed by an intensive 3-day train the trainer course to teach wheelchair skills.

From that point on I began to teach with a co-trainer at various spinal cord injury centre in the north of England, and also at Calvert Trust centres in Keswick and Exmoor.

I also used the mentoring service provided by Back Up. It was really good to talk to someone who had been through something similar to what I was facing, and I was able to talk about any issues I had.

I followed my multi activity course by going to Sweden on a ski course, which again was mind blowing and a brilliant experience to show what is possible.

Now I use my experience and confidence that I regained by continuing to teach wheelchair skills around several spinal cord injury centres and also give patient education talks, as well as teaching on courses.

There is no better feeling than being able to pass on some knowledge to someone who is in the same position as I used to be.

If I can help to make one person’s life that little bit better it makes everything worthwhile and the feeling I get from helping others is priceless.