Santi’s story: Volunteering to help others affected by a spinal cord injury

After training to become a volunteer mentor, 22-year-old Santi is excited to help people affected by spinal cord injury get the most out of life.

“Before my injury, I enjoyed playing football. That was my goal–to be a footballer,” says Santi.

“I used to go to the gym a lot, but it’s a little too far now. I still enjoy exercising, I just do it at home.”

“I enjoy going out with friends, but also going out and about by myself. I watch a lot of sports too and really enjoy watching F1.”

Discovering Back Up

“When I was 15, I sustained a complete C4–C5 spinal cord injury,” he says.

Santi’s spinal cord has been damaged in the cervical area (in his neck). This type of injury can affect someone’s breathing, and a ‘complete’ spinal cord injury means Santi has a complete loss of movement and feeling below his injury site.

“When I was in hospital, Back Up came to my room and introduced themselves. They told me everything about what the charity does.”

“Then six months after leaving hospital, I went on the Moving Forwards course for young people.”

Back Up’s Moving Forwards course is designed by young adults for young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. We tailor the course to individuals’ needs, but it typically supports young people who want to live independently and develop life skills. This could include using public transport, getting dressed independently, making a meal, building confidence and coping with life in a wheelchair.

“I really enjoyed the Moving Forward course, mainly because of the people on the course. I made loads of new friends.”

“After that, I went on the skiing course in Sweden. It was the first time I went on a course by myself without knowing anyone. Before, I either had my parents or a carer with me. “It was an amazing experience! It gave me a little bit more confidence in everyday life.”

Training to become a volunteer mentor

“I then went on the two-day mentoring training course. I wanted to become a mentor because I enjoy speaking to people and by that time, I had a lot of lived experience.”

“When I was recently injured, I had a lot of questions and didn’t know who to speak with. I feel like I can now help answer those questions for other people.”

“I feel like volunteering is something I can do to help people through similar situations to the ones I’ve experienced.”

“The mentoring training weekend taught me it’s more about listening to the person, rather than talking about yourself. If they want to hear your advice, that’s when you talk. But the main thing is to listen.”

“I haven’t done any one-to-one mentoring yet, but I’m intrigued. I’m really excited to find out what questions they have, and what things they’re worried about that I can help them with.”

“My advice is to remember that it’s okay. I understand what they’re going through, but there’s still life after injury. It’s not the end of their life.”

“And to someone else thinking about volunteering, I say give it a go. You’ll learn new things, and there’s always someone you can help. I’m so excited to help people!”

Want to become a mentor? Check out our mentoring pages and sign up today to help transform someone’s life.