My Experience as a DSA Volunteer

By Emma Payne, DSA Volunteer

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I had the opportunity to start volunteering with the DSA in April.  I had been made redundant and I wanted to start giving something back to my community.  The only contact I’d previously had of anyone with Down’s syndrome was when my colleague at work gave birth to a boy with Down’s syndrome, Matthew.  She was in her early twenties and it was a complete shock to her and her family.  When Vicky bought Matthew into the office, he was gorgeous and just as cute as any other baby.  That was around 15 years ago and in the days before Facebook. I’ve sadly lost contact with Vicky and I always wonder how Matthew is.  So when I realised that the DSA was based in Teddington, just a few miles from where I lived, I contacted them to see if I could help while I was between jobs.
They were brilliant. Amy and Vanda put their heads together and suggested I work with Kate Powell to provide support while she writes her blog each week.  Kate has Down’s syndrome and is in her mid-30s.  She has been working for the DSA for 14 years and is Editor of Down2Earth Magazine.  She is passionate about representing people with Downs Syndrome in a positive light  Kate is also full of confidence – she has given presentations to all manner of conferences – something that I hate doing in the working world.  She’s definitely taught me to not worry about what other people think.
It’s been a perfect 3.5 hour a week job for me.  It’s been a real joy getting to know Kate.  She’s a bundle of laughs and her family have helped to fill her life with activities, friends and events – there has never been a dull moment.  I’ve been privileged that Kate has built a trust in me and on a weekly basis we have shared our news with each other.  Kate is very diligent with her blog, she writes it all out on paper first.  Kate is the creative side of the blog, and I’m supposed to make sure the spelling is good and the grammar is good enough to make sure it’s readable.  I didn’t mention to Amy at my interview that spelling and grammar were never my forte!  Kate has given me some really challenging words to spell too (I’ve had to look a couple up to check I’ve advised her correctly).  I am now paranoid about my own grammar too!!  My favourite blog has to be the week she went to the Harry Potter Experience, I was actually so jealous!  – and of course the week I had an honourable mention as we talked about what she does on her work day with the DSA.
The DSA office is a lovely place too, having recently been chosen as the beneficiaries of a charity refurbishment by Morgan Lovell. All the decor and desks are sparkling. There is a kitchenette area in the basement with a pool table and I have to say the DSActive team play a mean game of pool at lunchtime.  Every Wednesday I’ve had lunch with Amy and Kate before we’ve got stuck into the blog.  That has to be the first lunch-hour I’ve ever had since I started working full time and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Rather sadly, I have secured a job, which won’t allow me, at this stage to continue to work with Kate and the team, and I am really going to miss them all.  I hope in the future to be able to work with them maybe on a more permanent voluntary basis, but for now Kate and Amy will have to struggle on without me!  I shall look forward to reading Kate’s blog every week and she’s promised me we can stay in touch!