charity life lifestyle mental health southampton storytelling volunteering wellbeing

A beautiful evening of real life stories

I love a good story.

I love sharing my stories, not just my funny every day ones, but the more intimate, personal, vulnerable ones. That’s how this blog started originally, with What I learned before I turn 30… Sharing what I learned from my experiences so others can learn from them too…

So when browsing the Southampton Volunteer Services pages,  Touch Network instantly grabbed my attention. A small Southampton charity getting every day people to share their stories.  And I signed up to volunteer helping them out with the events they put together.

Last Wednesday I was invited by the lovely Hannah to go to their event to get an idea, and to help me decide if it’s for me.

As soon as I walked in and talked to Hannah, I felt the love and kindness in the room. I could tell from everyone’s faces. Sometimes I can just tell just by looking at people.

Hannah introduced me to Richard and his daughter Nikki  and sat with them for the whole night. They were both so sweet and lovely.

Nikki was the first speaker. Her little boy arrived three months early and he had to spend 50 days at the hospital. She talked us through her experience as a first time mum, who couldn’t hold her baby for days, unsure whether he’d survive, how she coped with the guilt and the pain.  It didn’t take long for my eyes to get all teary. It always amazes me how we humans cope with the most excruciatingly painful, unexpected situations life throws at us.

Next up was Clare. Talking about how music helped her through her most difficult times. Misdiagnosed with brain tumour, recently diagnosed with autism and rewinding her whole life, making sense of situations that baffled her before she knew about her autism. In the end she played us two gorgeous, beautiful songs she wrote on her guitar. Oh my. What a beautiful, sweet voice. She was amazing, I don’t think she knew how amazing she was.

After a short break I spent chatting to Richard about everything and anything, it was time for the next speaker Frances. Her whole life was a struggle, since she was a child. I couldn’t believe some of the things I’ve heard. Bullying, dealing with physical and mental illness but overcoming all to today helping others, although she still has to cope with her physical restraints. Funny, witty, emotional, real. Another amazing human who survived in this life because of the love and support of other amazing humans when she needed it the most.

Last but not least, Chix. What a man. A primary school teacher whose severe anxiety made him stop and re-evaluate his life. He talked about his ‘scientist vs artist’ challenge, as he is also a musician, an artist and how he now leads a more balanced life, spending more time with his friends and his family and also doing other things other than teaching. He talked about the being or becoming a teacher debate. Surely you have to have the charisma and personality to do so, you have to love it, I personally think but you can also learn as you go along.

Chix’s messages I remember the most: Invest in the special people in your life, make time for them. You know who they are, they are the ones who are there for you no matter what. Even if you haven’t spoken for a while. His friends and family, his special ones were there on the night to cheer him on.

And you can be whoever you are. You don’t have to be a scientist or an artist, you can be either, both or neither. Be who you want to be and just be happy.

I left feeling inspired and so incredibly blessed I got to meet all these amazing people and learn from their stories.

When Hannah asked me in the end of the night if I still wanted to volunteer after being at the event, I didn’t have to think twice.

The next event will take place on the 17th of May, at Solent and I can’t wait.

I have a feeling this is the start of something truly wonderful…

Eleni

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