Meet Tom: A Dedicated Volunteer at Midland Mencap’s parkride

7 June 2024
3 min read.

Hi, I am Tom. Since January 2024, I have been volunteering at Midland Mencap’s parkride sessions, primarily at Woodgate Valley and Cannon Hill Park. These sessions offer a wonderful opportunity to engage with the community and support individuals with learning disabilities through cycling activities. Volunteering here has been a rewarding experience that combines my passion for cycling with meaningful community service.

The Role of a parkride Volunteer

At parkride, the social aspect is just as important as the physical activity. I enjoy getting to know the citizens, figuring out which bikes they prefer, and helping them get ready for their rides. Whether it is a casual cruise or a more energetic ride, I’m there to support and motivate them. This involves adjusting the bikes to suit everyone’s needs, providing encouragement, and sometimes accompanying them on their rides to ensure they feel safe and confident. It’s incredibly fulfilling to see the joy and sense of achievement on their faces as they ride.

Why I Chose Midland Mencap

After being made unemployed, I found myself with a lot of free time. My previous job as a bike courier had me searching for cycling-related volunteering opportunities. I discovered Midland Mencap’s parkride volunteer listing on Google, and it felt like the perfect way to spend my time meaningfully. I was looking for something that would keep me active and allow me to use my skills in a positive way. The idea of helping people enjoy cycling, especially those who might not otherwise have the opportunity, was very appealing to me.

Personal Rewards from Volunteering

Volunteering at parkride is incredibly fun and fulfilling. Meeting regular participants and watching their progress is immensely satisfying. For me, it’s also about building confidence, knowing that I can make a positive impact. Being outdoors, on my bike, aligns perfectly with my lifestyle since I don’t own a car and rely on cycling for transportation. Every session feels like an adventure, and I love the sense of community that has developed among the volunteers and participants. It’s a great way to stay fit and healthy while contributing to a good cause.

Memorable Moments

One of my favourite experiences was with Mathew, a participant at Woodgate. Over time, I’ve seen him become more verbal and confident. Soon, we’ll be able to go on longer rides together, like the Bournville Walkway, after my training. This journey with Mathew has been incredibly inspiring, showing me the importance of patience and consistent support. Another memorable moment was at Cannon Hill, where I helped a strong cyclist transition from a smaller tricycle to a regular bike. Seeing him reach his potential was incredibly rewarding. We went for a longer, faster ride, and the excitement and pride he felt were palpable. These moments remind me why I volunteer and the impact we can have on each other’s lives.

Making a Difference in the Community

My presence at busy sessions helps ensure that everyone gets a chance to ride without waiting too long. It’s not just about the bike rides but facilitating an enjoyable and fulfilling experience for the participants. By being there to assist, I can help streamline the process of getting participants on bikes, reducing wait times, and increasing the overall enjoyment of the session. This means that more people can participate and benefit from the activities. It’s gratifying to know that my efforts contribute to making the sessions run smoothly and effectively.

Learning and Growth

Since I started volunteering, I’ve gained significant confidence in being responsible for others. Engaging with people with learning disabilities has been a valuable skill I’ve developed, and it’s taught me a lot about communication and patience. These experiences are not only personally rewarding but also applicable to potential future career paths in education and caregiving. I’ve learned about safeguarding practices and how to handle various situations that might arise during the sessions. This has given me a greater sense of responsibility and the confidence to take on leadership roles within the volunteer team.

Advice for Aspiring Volunteers

To anyone considering volunteering at Midland Mencap, I say just do it! It’s a lot of fun, and as you keep coming back, you’ll see the tangible impact you’re making. The relationships you build with the citizens make it all worthwhile. You’ll find yourself returning not just for the activity but to catch up with friends and witness their growth and confidence. Volunteering here has been an incredible journey, and I look forward to continuing to make a difference, one bike ride at a time. The sense of community and the positive atmosphere make it a truly enriching experience that I highly recommend to anyone looking to volunteer.

Want to learn more about volunteering at Midland Mencap? Click here