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

For about 18 months my husband and I have enjoyed cycling in Woodgate Valley with the team from Mencap.

During lockdown new paths were installed in Woodgate and this has been a remarkable transformation.

We always enjoyed riding up and down the path and it was good exercise in the fresh air but, in truth, it was rather monotonous.

Now I feel a freedom, that I have never felt before, as I free wheel down the hill.

That in itself is exhilarating and I feel like a bird soaring at speed.

Having mobility issues this is such a unique, wonderful and memorable sensation.

The route I follow is just beautiful. During the seasons there has been an ever changing vista.

There have been beautiful flowers and plants; blossoms, daises, buttercups, celandines, clovers, cow parsley, bluebells, angelica, dog roses, vetch, red campion, wild garlic and others, names of which are unbeknown to me.

The song of the birds is uplifting and during my last few visits I have paused by the meadow to observe the dozens of butterflies and moths.

It reminds me of the poem by W.H.Davies, “What is this life if, full of care We have no time to stand and stare…”

Every week is different, each a golden opportunity to see nature at close quarters, to observe the changing seasons, to recharge batteries and uplift spirits.

The benefits of this fantastic scheme are self evident, a wonderful way of strengthening or at least maintaining muscle power. We would be so grateful if it was just that, but it is so much more.

The impact on mental health is so positive. I look forward to that hill every week, with the breeze blowing through my hair and the thrill of speed. (Steve does remind me to test the brakes EVERY time!)

It is such a thrilling exhilarating experience which impacts on our whole well being, not just the physical aspect.
None of this is possible without the FANTASTIC staff to come in all weathers to enable this magic to happen.

Without exception they are so supportive and encouraging. “You can do this” If we get stuck they give us an unobtrusive push. They make it so easy for us to succeed and they boost our confidence in our own ability.

We cannot begin to tell you what a wonderful experience this is, something to look forward to, come rain or shine.

We would like to say a HUGE thank you to EVERYONE connected to ‘Park Ride’ including the office staff and those who arrange, secure and supply funding.

We want you to know what a positive impact it has had on our lives and we are so very
grateful to you all, each and everyone.