No ordinary Joe

1 June 2020

This week is Volunteers’ Week in the UK. Here, one of Norwood’s latest recruits explain why volunteering for this particular charity was a deeply personal and heartfelt decision.

At the start of the coronavirus crisis in the UK, Norwood – sensing that its vital services would be needed more than ever – put out an urgent call for more volunteers. In the short time since that call went out, a small army has been assembled from across the community – from Young Norwood volunteers who have been conducting quiz evenings and karaoke sessions for the people living in Norwood’s accommodation services to a 90-year-old man who has been phoning residents on their birthday to sing to them over the phone.

But one of these new volunteers has a somewhat familiar face. Step forward Joseph Baker, who has returned to a place he knows well, Norwood’s Kennedy Leigh Family Centre in Hendon, only this time in a new role as a volunteer driver.

Joe and the Kennedy Leigh have history. It was here, when he was a young man struggling with dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia and social anxiety, that Joe came to attend a course at Binoh, Norwood’s specialist teaching support service.

At this stage in Joe’s life, he had become so overwhelmed and anxious, that he could barely walk to the top of the road by himself. Slowly, with Binoh’s help, Joe learnt how to operate independently and, according to his family, “the change was astonishing”. Suddenly, Joe had a zest for life his family had never seen before and Joe has been bringing that zest to his new role. “It was a simple decision to volunteer for Norwood,” says Joe. “I got furloughed at my job and it was a simple decision for me to use this spare time to give something back.”

As if his new volunteering role wasn’t enough, Joe is also using what spare time he currently has cycling up to 100km a day training for his first Norwood Challenge, which he is very much hoping to undertake later this year.

“The past few weeks have been really busy,” Joe says. “I’ve been driving all over London, picking up and dropping off food and PPE and doing some tough cycles whenever I can. It’s an incredible feeling being able to do all this, though. Without Norwood’s help, I wouldn’t be able to drive and I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today. The way I see it is that this is not a situation I would have ever dared dream could happen: I got something out of Norwood when I needed it, and now am in a position where Norwood can get something out of me.”

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