Volunteers at Monday Night Club and Compass.

Volunteering with people with learning difficulties was something that I had been interested in for a long time, but when searching for opportunities online it wasn’t until I came across Yellow Submarine’s website that I was really inspired to step out of my comfort zone and sign up. I had unwittingly walked past the charity’s café on Park End Street for many years without ever realising the incredible projects that went on inside. Reading about the organisation and the experiences of other volunteers, I was instantly struck not only by the variety of activities that were put on but also by how much fun everyone seemed to be having doing them! So when I came in to discuss volunteering, I was already sold.

I didn’t have any previous experience working with young people with learning difficulties and so wasn’t sure what to expect at all. I really wanted a gentle introduction so as to find my feet, and for this reason I began by attending one of the charity’s Compass sessions, working with a small and relatively reserved group which allowed me to get a sense of things in a pretty calm and relaxed environment. However, my first week of volunteering also happened to coincide with the Monday Night Club’s Christmas party, one of the biggest events of the year at Yellow Submarine. It was quite a contrast! The members that night were a supercharged bundle of noise, movement and energy, and the room was brimming with excitement in anticipation of the evening’s plans. I was quite apprehensive, and worried that interacting with such a lively bunch might be challenging. But I need not have worried, as I was very quickly made to feel at home – not only by the ever-helpful and welcoming staff but above all by the members themselves. In the space of a few short minutes I was greeted by a succession of friendly faces who wanted to introduce themselves, tell me about their days, their favourite things, their Christmas holiday plans, and to find out what football team I supported. I was surprised by how articulate, independent and confident many of the members were, and wondered how I would ever remember so many new names! We eventually set off for a meal and end-of-year awards ceremony in a local pub, and I came home that night having enjoyed myself so much that I knew Yellow Submarine would become a regular part of my life.

Within a few weeks, I knew pretty much every member by name and vice versa, and as time has gone on I’ve had the privilege of getting to know each of them as unique, often hilarious, and always inspiring individuals. I would recommend Yellow Submarine to anyone. For me, it has genuinely been one of the most fulfilling and enriching experiences I’ve had. The staff could not be more friendly and supportive, and I leave each session with the feeling that I’ve made a real difference to these young people’s lives. Despite my initial reservations, Monday Night Club has become a real highlight. I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to the start of the week quite like I do now! There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.