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Why I volunteer: Member2Member volunteers

Our Member2Member volunteers, Isobel Helme, Andy Rosie, David Mason and Kevin Deans explain how they help others by sharing their experiences of living gluten free.

Isobel Member2Member volunteer

Isobel Helme

“I was hugely fortunate to be diagnosed with coeliac disease as a young child, so throughout the years I have accumulated a large amount of knowledge. This has been both purposefully, by reading new articles and keeping up to date with the latest advice, and more real world focused; for example, which words to use when talking to waiters, or how best to explain the severity of the condition to those who don't fully understand.

“Being a Member2Member volunteer is a massively rewarding thing to do. Just sending a quick email with a couple of pieces of advice can majorly improve someone's life. We all have so much knowledge to share, and the emails I receive thanking me and explaining how much I have helped remind me that we're not alone and that we're a community.

“I feel privileged to be in a position where I can share what I've learned throughout the years with the newly diagnosed. My friends call me the 'coeliac fairy godmother'!”

 Andy Member2Member

Andy Rosie

“Finding out that you have coeliac disease is a shock, and it’s life changing. Speaking to people with experience and sympathy helped me come to terms with it, and realise that it’s not the end of the world, but entirely manageable. Being able to talk to others that have come through the same ordeal gave me the confidence to make the necessary changes and realise that, actually, I could resume my life with minimal compromises.

“As a Member2Member counsellor, I find it hugely rewarding being able to help those newly diagnosed to get back on their feet and realise that they are not alone. I can help answer questions, and, if I’m not qualified to answer some of them, I can put them in touch with an appropriate expert. It feels really good to be able to “pass it on”!

“Member2Member counselling is not for everyone, but if you enjoy speaking to people, empathising and building a rapport with them, then maybe you’d make an excellent counsellor. 

“If this is not for you, there are many other ways to volunteer and help support our Coeliac UK community. I’d advise you speak to the friendly folk there and ask for advice on ways to volunteer that match your skills and capabilities.

“Together we’re stronger, and what better way to demonstrate you’re proud to be part of the Coeliac UK community than to become a volunteer.

“Good luck, you’ll be glad you did it!”

David Member2Member

David Mason

 “Having been diagnosed five years ago after becoming seriously ill and hospitalised, I will never forget my bewilderment on receiving the glad tidings from my medical team that their extensive testing finally showed that I had this "thing" called coeliac disease, and in consequence my diet had to change significantly, to avoid something called "gluten". Moreover, I had to be 100% compliant with the new regime!

Luckily for me, a fellow patient heard my GF dialogue with the nurses, and told me his wife had coeliac disease, and sent her over to chat to me at the next visitors' slot.

She told me all about Coeliac UK, gave me her old Food and Drink directory, some back issues of newsletters, some gluten free recipes, and reassured me that this was far from being "the end of life as I knew it". This relaxed me enormously, especially as I could see clearly how much gluten free food was available, and easily sourced from my regular supermarket.

“Consequently, I never forget her kindness, and jumped at the opportunity to join the Member2Member support system, where I have since been helping someone newly diagnosed with practical advice.

“I have also joined in on all other Coeliac UK initiatives where I felt I could add value, as I am keen to give back to an organisation which has helped me so much. There are lots of different ways to help, you can choose which aspects best suit you and for which you have time, so it's very much your choice as to how much time to give.

“Anyone who has been living with coeliac disease will always have something to give to those newly diagnosed. Remember, you have had time to adjust, and realise it's a very manageable situation, whilst they may well be still trying to get their heads around it, and are likely feeling anxious and scared.

“At a more general level, the charity does a seriously worthwhile job, so anything we can do to support them will always be welcome.”

Kevin Member2Member

Kevin Deans

“As a volunteer with the Coeliac UK Member2Member programme, the thing I enjoy most is speaking to other people who are going through the same experiences as we went through a few years ago.

“My son was diagnosed as having coeliac disease when he was two years old, and getting to grips with gluten free life was quite a learning curve for us. With the excellent support from our dietitian, and the helpful resources available from Coeliac UK, we learned a lot very quickly.

“Having walked that road, it's rewarding now to be in touch with other parents who are beginning their journey, with the aim that hopefully we can use our experience to be of help to others.

“If you have experience of life with coeliac disease, it's likely that you have something to offer! Volunteering doesn't have to be daunting or even particularly time consuming. Giving a little bit of your time can make such a difference, and you'll find it rewarding too.”

Could you help others by sharing your experience of living gluten free? If you’d like to know more about becoming a Member2Member volunteer, click on the button below.

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