What inspired you to volunteer as a buddy on Back Up’s Moving forwards course?
I was a Physiotherapist working in a hospital in Brisbane. A ‘quarter-life crisis’ caused me to quit my job and travel to the UK for three months. I didn’t want the trip to be entirely selfish so I looked into volunteering abroad. I have always had an interest in working with people with spinal cord injury and with the help of google I found Back Up. It looked like a fantastic organisation and I’d never come across anything similar at home. The team were very accommodating and organised a Skype interview. Due to the time difference I wore business attire on top and pyjama pants on the bottom! Chatting with Tim Farr about what the courses entail as well as my role as a buddy made me so excited and the countdown was on till I flew to the UK.
What did you get out of the experience?
All the participants of Moving Forwards can vouch for how much I enjoyed the course. This was made particularly evident by me sobbing my eyes out on the last night. I would Skype my family each night about the course and they kept saying ” Sammy, I think we’ve just lost you to the UK. Sounds like you’re having too much fun to come home.” I can honestly say the course was one of the best things I’ve ever been lucky enough to be a part of. As a Physiotherapist, I am used to spending lots of time with different people in rehabilitation but it is very important to maintain a professional relationship. As a buddy, it was wonderful to spend time with the participants in a more relaxed and social setting.
What do you think the participants got out of the experience?
What I think Back Up and the team leaders do so well is tailoring each course to their participants. The Moving Forwards course was designed for and by 18-25 year olds. I don’t think the course would have been as meaningful and successful if the group had to sit around in a circle for hours. Instead it facilitated participants engaging in activities that people their age might want to do: going to the pub, shopping, cooking for their friends and getting around a new city. It was a fantastic and safe setting for participants to build their confidence and share experiences and tips with each other. I think the participants also enjoyed having the chance to socialise with other young people with a spinal cord injury.
What was the highlight of your volunteering experience with Back Up?
I was a buddy on two Back Up courses and they remain a huge highlight of my three month stint in the UK. I feel so lucky to have been involved even in a small capacity. I learned so much and especially about how unique and extraordinary Back Up is.
Would you like to get involved with Back Up in the future?
I’ve already made plans to marry Prince Harry so he can help fund my mission to start a Back Up Down Under (copyright). On return to Brisbane I have been included in discussions with various professionals working in similar organisations. While it is only early days, it is exciting to share ideas with Australians who’ve also had such a positive experience with Back Up.
What would you say to others considering volunteering on a Back Up course?
I would say definitely do it and just try not to be the only one who cries when it comes to saying goodbye! I could have met anyone while travelling in the UK and I met this amazing bunch of people who truly change people’s lives. I will be forever grateful to have stumbled across this wonderful organisation.
If you’d like to be a buddy or carer on one of our residential courses, click here to apply or email Merryn (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.