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Interviewing other people has helped me: Laura's story

Laura, Team Supporter Volunteer

Being a Team Supporter volunteer at the National Deaf Children’s Society is more than just shredding old papers or filing. Laura Hadfield helps our Participation team interview deaf young people about their experiences. She also shares her experiences of growing up deaf and is a positive role model for the deaf young people she chats to.

What is your volunteer role?

I volunteer with the Participation team doing evaluations. We send surveys to young people about deaf awareness in their school and I look at the results. We then invite the young people to have an informal conversation to find out more about their answers and get a bigger picture. We do one-to-one interviews and group interviews for up to 10 young people.

The amount of time that I volunteer varies on what support they need from me in interviewing and planning. Sometimes it's a bit quiet but then I might volunteer once a week for about four weeks.

Why did you become a volunteer?

I'm profoundly deaf so I know what it’s like to grow up deaf and I want to support children that have the same experience as me. I want to give my input to try and make a better place for deaf children in the world. That feels very rewarding. And the other thing is I like to meet new people and other deaf people.

I knew about the National Deaf Children’s Society and after I finished university, I decided I wanted to volunteer. One day I got an email saying there's a new volunteer role and I was interested in it, and so I just applied over email.

How have you found volunteering from home?

I meet colleagues and young people in virtual meetings. It's different to in-person because you can get more conversation flow – that's a bit more challenging online.

It’s a lovely environment though and the team is really welcoming. They have a regular online meeting called ‘Cat and Chat’ where it’s a casual, online chat. I go to some of them, so that's a nice way to talk to other people in the team about social things and cats!

What inspires you to keep volunteering?

Having a lovely, welcoming team that make me feel part of their team and part of a community. They understand about my deafness and have good deaf awareness across the organisation.

For example, in a one-to-one, a quick meeting, or an interview, they provide a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter or captions so I can understand everything they say. When I join a meeting, they don’t just jump in and start. They make sure I can see the interpreter or have captions. They take the time to check everything first and make sure it's working. I feel very included.

How does your volunteering benefit deaf children and young people?

I think if they see me as a deaf person volunteering, that helps give them confidence that they can be successful in the future. They can do anything: they can work, do their own things and can do them independently. I feel I'm providing them a positive example.

When I interview deaf young people, I try to drop in any little tips that might help them and encourage them to feel more confident to say “I’m deaf” or to make them aware of little things that might help them to raise awareness to the teacher.

What have you gained from volunteering?

Before I volunteered here, I wasn’t that confident, but interviewing other people has helped me. I feel the National Deaf Children’s Society has provided me with an example to know how to stand up for myself as a deaf person, to say, “That's not the right way for me,” or “Can you do it differently.” It helps me to put my hand up more often in my workplace and when I meet new people.

What would you tell someone thinking about volunteering?

I would say definitely apply. It's worth the experience and you’ll enjoy it. I would recommend it. I feel included and involved as part of the team. I’m glad they’ve given me the opportunity to do it. It’s been a really positive experience and it’s a lovely environment to volunteer in.

Having Laura as a volunteer with the Participation team has been a positive experience for them too.

Dan Gallacher, Senior Participation Office, says: “Laura has allowed us to deliver more one-to-ones and, as a BSL user, she helps deaf young people feel represented in our team."

"The responses Laura has gotten help us run campaigns to support deaf children and young people. Some of the answers that deaf young people shared wouldn’t have been possible without Laura. She is a valued part of the team!”