Volunteering for Asist
What is Asist?
Asist is an independent organisation formed in early 1994 from a steering committee made up of various voluntary bodies and other interested parties. Asist provides an advocacy service throughout the county of Staffordshire. It is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee. The organisation is governed by an Executive Committee made up of people from the voluntary sector along with other members of the community.
Asist has grown considerably since its establishment. It runs several different projects and is one of the largest advocacy schemes in the Country. The organisation has a main office in Stoke and 2 smaller offices throughout the County.
What is Advocacy?
Advocacy is about helping people who are disadvantaged or vulnerable and so are often devalued by society and seen as 'different'. The advocate's task is to represent, where necessary, their advocacy partner's views and interests as if they were their own. It may mean speaking on someone’s behalf if they are unable to or they have difficulties communicating, or alternatively, offering them support to put forward their own opinions more effectively. Advocates also gather information, allowing their advocacy partner to make informed choices
What is the role of a volunteer advocate?
Volunteer advocates support someone on a one to one basis where there is an identified, appropriate issue. Advocacy partnerships may be short term or longer term depending upon the individual’s needs and issues. We match volunteers with advocacy partners very carefully taking into account the advocacy issues, the availability of the volunteer, travel times etc. Volunteer advocates may be required to perform a variety of tasks which could include:-
- Gathering information for their advocacy partner so that they can make an informed choice
- Supporting their advocacy partner to write letters
- Liaising with and contacting others on behalf of their advocacy partner
- Asking questions on behalf of their advocacy partner
- Supporting and/or representing their advocacy partner at a meeting
- Translating documents into something meaningful!!
Why I became a 'Volunteer Advocate'
I joined Asist because of my friend – I originally contacted the Asist Office to make a referral on behalf of my friend, who had the onset of dementia. Unfortunately, I was told there was an eight week waiting list to be seen; this not only shocked me, but also inspired me.
My friend could not wait eight weeks, she needed support straight away; it was her wish to return home from Hospital, but her relatives stated “their Aunt would be safer in a Care Home” and that is where she is. Due to my friend’s lack of speech and my lack of knowledge, her wish was not granted.
I didn’t have the power to help my friend, but I hoped to gain the power to help people like her; people with mental health problems, sensory impairment and physical disabilities. I could not help my friend, but she has helped me to:
This is why I joined Asist.
Having a physical disability myself, my motivation for volunteering with Asist was from a bad personal experience in a residential home which highlighted to me how difficult it can be for people with disabilities to be heard by professionals that support them.
I was fortunate to have good support from family and friends but my experiences have given me a greater understanding of situations from the point of view of others and a passion to want to help the voiceless be heard!
Asist have been very supportive to my needs and for the first time in my life I have felt like part of a team.