"Volunteering for me has been life-changing, fun and I feel very much part of a community".
Francesca, a volunteer for our Leeds and District Network, was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 2012 and started volunteering with Crohn's and Colitis UK in 2013 during her first year at University.
Until my diagnosis, I didn’t know what Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) was and I didn’t know how to recognise any of the symptoms. I found my diagnosis very hard, especially as I was preparing to leave for University and during my first year there I really struggled with depression and anxiety surrounding my condition. I came across the Leeds and District Network by chance and I’d never thought of volunteering before as I didn’t want to be vocal about my condition, but I attended a meeting to see what it was like and it was the first time I’d ever met another person with IBD. I found it amazing to be able to meet someone else who understood, and the positivity and support of joining the team really affected the outlook I had on life and my diagnosis.
Since joining the Network, I’ve helped to coordinate events and managed the Network's social media accounts. I began volunteering to help me understand my condition which taught me not to be afraid. Now I volunteer because I’m determined to raise awareness of IBD – if more people are aware of the symptoms and notice them early, maybe this can lead to earlier diagnosis and avoid the situation that I got myself in!
The highlight for me is definitely all the awareness raising that we are able to do. Even if an event affects one person and makes them understand what IBD is, that’s really important to me. I’ve spoken to people who have said that the charity has made a difference to their lives, made them feel more positive and that they’re not alone with the condition, and that’s incredible.
I’ve also been able to do some really cool things during my time as a volunteer – I’ve walked in a fashion show and conquered my fears of falling over in front of a large group of people, and I’ve gained experience in event managing as I’ve helped organise various events, such as carol singing and information forums. It could be difficult at times managing this alongside studying for my degrees, but it's really flexible and the charity and network volunteers have been really understanding.
Volunteering for me is life-changing, fun and I feel part of a community. I would definitely say give it a go – the charity are really welcoming and are more than happy for you to turn up to a couple of meetings without making a commitment so you can see first if volunteering is for you. You also get to meet some amazing people and take part in some great activities which really make you feel like you’re making a difference. The charity is also extremely supportive and there’s always someone who you can ask if you feel like you need help during your volunteering journey.