How did you find out about Wheels for All?
I have links with the Marlow Riders cycling club who support the charity through organisation of a sportive every year. This brought WFA to my attention and I then read about the work you do via your website.
Why did you get involved?
I recently took early retirement from my corporate role and qualified as a cycling coach which I do on a part-time basis. However, I wanted to do some voluntary work also and was looking for a volunteering role which involved cycling in some regard because I am passionate about making cycling accessible to everybody. So when I found out about WFA I recognised this as a perfect opportunity to get involved and share my knowledge and enthusiasm for cycling.
What are your tasks and roles when volunteering?
I attend the 3 hour WFA session on Saturdays at Marlow which is an outdoor session at the Bisham Abbey sports complex where WFA have the use of the tennis court area and also the roads within the complex. Riders tend to be a mix of children and adults with a wide range of physical and learning disabilities. I work with the other volunteers to run the session which involves many different tasks. The bikes have to be ridden/wheeled from the storage shed and inspected for any punctures or other issues prior to the start of the session and repairs made if necessary.
We welcome riders as they arrive, and register their attendance. If they are new to the sessions we take registration details and discuss the various bike options with the rider or their carer to ensure a suitable bike is selected to meet their needs. If riders are capable of riding one of the bikes without assistance, we ensure the bike is set up correctly for them and they can then enjoy riding around the tennis court area although sometimes this also involves supervision and encouragement from one of the volunteer team who walks (or jogs!) by their side. Some riders need to ride one of the two-person bikes or the wheelchair bike and in that case we ride with them and will often take them around the grounds of the complex so that they get a real feeling of riding around a large outside space. Finally, at the end of the session, all the bikes and equipment need to be returned to the storage shed and safely locked away.
Any highlights from volunteering with Wheels for All?
I have only recently joined WFA but it’s been great getting to know and learning from the fantastic team who volunteer at Marlow WFA. I have also had the pleasure of getting to know one of the regular riders at the session who uses the wheelchair bike. He has severe learning difficulties and the first time I rode him around the grounds of Bisham Abbey he didn’t say a word to me despite my continual efforts to chat to him. Gradually he started responding to simple questions as I chatted to him and then last week for the first time when I rode him to where some teenagers were playing football he spontaneously came out with ‘I used to play football’. That was a highlight for me!
What message would you give to anyone thinking about volunteering at their local Wheels for All centre?
There are several different roles involved in running one WFA session so no matter what your skills and experience you will be able to make a contribution as part of the volunteering team at a WFA centre be that riding the two-person or wheelchair bikes, maintaining and repairing the bikes, welcoming the riders and assessing their needs, encouraging and supporting them or performing the registration paperwork. All that you need is enthusiasm for enabling people to access cycling who wouldn’t normally be able to ride a moving bike.