Vital Volunteers: Meet Sarah and Tim

As it's just past national Volunteering Week, we chat to a couple of our vital Ability Bow volunteers Sarah and Tim and see the difference they make for our charity; as well as showing how you can get involved too! Sarah's up first, though you can also read about our volunteer Tim further down the page! 

Meet Sarah

Meet Sarah Hall-Craggs. From volunteer gym instructors to I.T. support, we’re always searching for more valuable skills and experience our volunteers like Sarah can bring to Ability Bow.

Sarah, 60, who lives just around the corner from us on Roman Road near our gym, decided to volunteer with us in February this year in order to assist her studies in Stroke Rehabilitation with the UK ARNI Institute (a rehab service for those with neurological injuries) and training with the WRIGHT Foundation to work with people with chronic health problems including cancer.

We talk to Sarah about why she loves volunteering for us and what a day in the life at Ability Bow is like, as well as finding out some crucial bits about herself; including if Sarah owns a T.V. or not!

The Q&A

Q: Hi Sarah. Great to chat to you and find out more about why you’re here. Please tell us a bit more about your career background?

A: Hi Ability Bow. My career has been in children’s services, but I became fed up all of the bureaucracy involved so decided to re-train in something with more face to face contact with people. I’ve always been interested in fitness, the body and movement so thought this position looked ideal.

Q: How much are you enjoying volunteering at the gym?

A: It’s great volunteering here for both gathering skills and gaining experience. I need practical experience of working with for example, a stroke patient. I can easily do this at Ability Bow and have direct member contact to tackle how to deal with their physical needs, which is fantastic.

I also really appreciate how the instructors here are very helpful and knowledgeable. Being at the gym really adds to the real life experience I need alongside my studies.

Q: How did you first hear about the gym?

A: I visited and spoke to Si Mohamed at the gym and saw the facilities. After seeing the people and the gym, I decided that it would be ideal to volunteer here.

Q: Why would you encourage other volunteers to sign up and use the gym?

A: Each instructor here maintains best practice, so you’re never unsafe or unsure of what to do. The volunteer induction is also really thorough, as the instructors work with you to maintain a manageable workload.

It’s also really nice to meet people here and you can quickly form some nice working relationships with the gym members, as Ability Bow’s such a positive place - which is really reflected in the attitude of our members.

They gym itself really lifts those who attend and as a volunteer, you quickly see how your contribution can make others feel positive; which is obviously rewarding.

Q: Why are you passionate about people?

A: I feel in life there’s a lack of community and I really wanted to find opportunities to connect with those around me.

I live on my own now and miss being around people, here at the gym I am in contact with people and it’s great and you feel valued.

Q: What skills and knowledge have you learnt since volunteering at the gym?

A: I’ve really learnt to understand varied wellbeing needs through working with different groups. For example, I recently worked with the blind group which was new for me.

I’ve also accessed hands-on experience and acquired skills from working within the stroke group, which I will be able to implement when I start working in the field.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

A: I’m a painter! I have my own home studio and I mix it with the acroyoga classes I teach at E3 Acrobatics (just off the Roman Road in Bow). I also love travelling abroad and reading, while I also attend a lot of acrobatic conventions!

I also really enjoy crafts and needlework which certainly keeps me occupied!

Q: What’s been your biggest life achievement?

A: Deciding at 60 to change my career.

I really feel it’s time to change and I’d say to people; realising when you’re unhappy and being able to change is an achievement in itself!

For me, if I know something’s making me unhappy, it’s vital to try to tackle it and move on, which I’m really happy I’m implementing.

Q: Favourite Film/TV show?

A: I’ll be honest, I don’t have a TV and haven’t owned one for 10 years!

Q: Favourite food/drink?

A: I’m definitely partial to a Bangladeshi style curry from around the local area!

Q: Favourite/inspirational person?

A: I’d actually say Rick Rogers from ParaCheer. Rick worked as a professional gymnast until about 7 years ago when he had an accident that left him in a wheelchair. He did not give up on his dreams to be a gymnast and started up ParaCheer. He’s training really hard performing around the world and training other people with physical disabilities to take part in Cheer leading.

His wisdom and teaching definitely inspires me!

Q: What are the best ways for you to keep physically/mentally motivated?

A: Reminding yourself of the good things in your own life!

Like at Ability Bow gym and our members, I feel it’s always about what you can do and if you can do it, go and do it! I think if you feel you have control of something, use it within your life to help you. Being grateful for what you have and what you can do can get you a long way!

Thanks so much Sarah for all your support and again for talking to us! 

Volunteer Now 

Like Sarah's story? Why not get involved as a volunteer now>>

Meet Tim 

Meet Tim O’Flaherty. 

From events support to receptionists, we’re always searching for enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers like Tim, who can add to our service at Ability Bow.

Tim, 56, who lives nearby on the Isle of Dogs, decided to volunteer with us last December and is one of our many supporters who live with a disability - Tim was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 1987 and was then referred to our service in 1998 when it was then known as Ability UK.

We talk to Tim about his positive experience at our gym as an admin support volunteer - including why he’s benefitted from us so much that he decided to make the transition from member to volunteer; and we find out about his impressively varied cultural interests!

The Q&A

Q: Hi Tim. Thanks for giving your time to us both as a volunteer and for this interview. Please tell us a bit more about your career background.

A: Hi Ability Bow. Thanks for having me! I’ve had quite a varied career. I’ve not achieved any official qualifications, though I’ve worked in the Post Office in the EC1-4 area. 

I first got involved with them by working behind the counter on railway stations such as London Bridge, London Waterloo, London Victoria and London Paddington, where I often liaised and met with railway managers. I eventually then moved to the personnel department (known known as human resources/HR), when I went in to 'writing duties', while I also dealt with ‘Good Driver’ awards for Post Office vans, as well as managing recruitment, sickness absences and disciplinary procedures.

During that time, my undiagnosed MS was beginning to really affect me and I eventually medically retired in January 2001.

Q: How did that affect you and what happened after your diagnosis?

A: I experienced relapsing MS with several hospital visits and my symptoms had really intensified by then, including encountering double vision and limited mobility amidst other problems.

I’d already joined Ability Bow as a gym member at that point and I’d been attempting to learn typing - as well as working a switchboard - and that lasted for seven months, as my MS became more severe and I didn’t feel able to maintain regular work.

Q: Why did you decide to volunteer for our gym and what does it involved?

A: I only considered volunteering for Ability Bow after I heard about the financial challenges they had after we had encountered after our One to One service closed, but as they’ve helped me, I really wanted to give back and thought I’d return the compliment!

Within my role, I input written information to the computer or shred confidential documents as/when required.

Q: What benefits do you think volunteering gives you?

A: Volunteering is really good and it’s always great to be challenging myself again.

Q: Why would you encourage people to join our gym as a volunteer?

A: I would encourage anyone to think about becoming a volunteer for Ability Bow as it’s a great way to help anyone who becomes involved to gradually feel they are succeeding emotionally and practically.

Q: Before we start on your many varied interests – is there anything else we should know about you?

A: I was an elected councilor in Tower Hamlets’ Weavers ward in 2002 for 8 years and achieved several successes during that time. 

Q: Favourite Film/TV show?

A: The Lost Boys!

Q: Favourite music/artist?

A: Anything from Tchaikovsky to punk band Slaughter and the Dogs (with anything in between).

Q: Favourite food/drink?

A: Anything my taste buds appreciate!

Q: Do you have any other hobbies you enjoy?

A: I support and enjoy watching Leyton Orient Football Club.

Q: Favourite/inspirational person?

A: Merrill Osmond (soon after he learnt of his then 26 year-old brother’s MS diagnosis in 2005).

Q: What are the best ways for you to keep physically/mentally motivated?

A: Remembering the line from Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side of Life single, which says that life’s not worth worrying about in the grander scheme of things (well, it’s a bit more expletive-laden in the song, but you get the drift).

Volunteer Now 

Like Tim's story? Why not get involved as a volunteer now>>