Helping to change lives

5:00am Friday 30th May 2014

VOLUNTEERING is not just about supporting others, it will transform your life in ways you never imagined possible.

That is Manuel Bueno’s message ahead of national Volunteers’ Week, which begins on Sunday.

Giving up his time to support people in need not only enriched the 50-year-old’s life but allowed him to find a new direction after being forced to close his business and leave his native Spain to find employment.

Manuel, of Rodbourne, was at an all-time low when he moved to Swindon with his wife Gissell and their eight-year-old son Alex five years ago. Volunteering helped him rediscover his zest for life and allowed him to gain paid work running a healthy eating scheme for vulnerable residents.

He said: “The economic crisis meant I had to close my business because clients stopped paying me. We had a friend in Swindon so decided to look for work here and make a fresh start.

“But it wasn’t easy because I spoke little English at the time. I started out delivering pizzas, then became a commis chef after getting an NVQ. It was all temporary work and in one job I was bullied badly. It made me very down and stressed so I had to take time off.”

As a regular library user, he started attending the weekly locality drop-in meetings held in the Central Library.

“I like being part of a community and was involved with the Red Cross and other charity work back in Spain. I was feeling very low at the time, but offered to help with things like litter picking and leaflet delivery.”

Volunteering combined with counselling boosted Manuel’s mood and created new learning opportunities.

Manuel is now working with the council’s Health and Wellbeing ambassadors, undertaking training and supporting people in making positive changes to their lifestyles.

He said: “When you help others, you’re helping yourself too and good things for everyone start happening. By doing things for others, you also improve your own life – that has certainly been my experience.

“I feel like a new man.”

Manuel’s passion for health and helping others is currently being channelled into a new healthy eating scheme called Let’s Get Cooking, which offers residents, including people with mental health issues, the chance to learn how to make fresh meals from scratch and be more independent.

National Volunteers’ Week is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and will run between June 1 and 7. It champions all forms of volunteering and its many benefits.

To volunteer with the Health and Wellbeing team email Peter Kent at pkent@swindon.gov.uk or call 07824 868437.

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