Antonia first got involved in volunteering with Waverley Care in late-2016. Since then, she’s taken on a variety of roles from running art workshops to providing outreach support and helping at SX’s weekly testing clinic. We caught up with her to hear about her role.

How did you first become aware of Waverley Care?

When I started volunteering, I was still at school. At the time, I was applying to study medicine at university and wanted to find a volunteering opportunity that would give me some relevant experience and help with the application.

I was searching around online to find local charities that were looking for volunteers and came across Waverley Care. I thought I’d go along to their training to see if I liked it.

Straight away I was struck by the sense of community – everyone made me feel really welcome and the training showed how much the organisation values its volunteers.

What different roles have you been involved in since joining Waverley Care?

When I started off I could only do weekends because of school. I helped run a monthly art group up at Milestone which we kept running for about a year.

Now that I’ve finished school, I’ve got a bit more time and I’m involved in a couple of projects – helping out at SX’s weekly M-Test clinic, and acting as an outreach volunteer, working with a couple of different service users.

How are you finding the testing clinic?

I’ve only done a couple of sessions so I’m still learning, but it’s a nice atmosphere. You get lots of different people coming in and you can chat to them and drink a lot of tea and coffee!

Some people may find the thought of taking an HIV or STI test a little scary or stressful. But we try to keep the service welcoming and relaxed, which I think helps put people at ease.

And what’s involved in your outreach role?

It’s mostly about getting people out of the house and doing everyday things.

Some of the people I’ve worked with are really isolated. They rarely leave the house and don’t get the chance to speak to many people.

One guy I’m working with at the moment, when we first met, was a bit reluctant to open up. It was a challenge to get him to come out to the art group, even though he always enjoyed it when we got there. But now, that trust’s been built up and he thinks of me as a friend. Now he’s waiting for me when I get off the bus and looks forward to getting out of the house and getting involved in things.

What do you feel you get out of being involved in volunteering?

It really rewarding. I recently took someone into town and we were standing in Primark and out of the blue she turned and said ‘Thank you so much, I feel so free’. That really hit me – something as simple as getting on a bus and going into town made a huge difference to her.

What would you say to someone who was thinking about volunteering with Waverley Care?

I would tell them it was really worth it – Waverley Care takes such a personal interest in everyone, including the volunteers. You feel like you’re really part of the community, which I love. There’s such a range of volunteer roles that, whatever you’re interested in you’ll find something for you.

Away from volunteering, what do you do in your spare time?

I like spending time with my family – we’re quite active and over the last few years I’ve had the chance to try things like canoeing and paragliding. It’s as much about spending the whole day with family and the adventure of it, rather than the adrenaline of the activity itself.

I also love walking my dog – a black Labrador called Cuillin (like the mountains on Skye). He’s massive, but we still call him puppy – which gives people a bit of a shock when this black monster comes out!

At the moment, I’m on a gap year, but I managed to get a place at the University of Aberdeen, studying medicine, and I’m looking forward to getting started.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items could you not live without?

Oh! Am I allowed to bring the dog?! I’d also take a snorkel (might as well have fun while I’m there) and some sort of music player. I like dancing and don’t think I could live without music.

Who inspires you?

Oh dear! I think I’ll need to be kind of boring and say my mum. She can be so patient with people and sometimes I don’t know how she does it.