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The value of a smile – volunteering at Livability

September 29 2023

Melody is a volunteer at our specialist brain injury rehabilitation centre Livability Icanho. She tells us about what’s she’s gained during her experience and how it will enhance her future career plans.

Hi Melody, tell us a little about yourself.
I live in Stowmarket in Suffolk and I’m studying for my PhD in human resources and organisational behaviour. Before that I completed my master’s degree in management in the Netherlands.

How did you get involved with volunteering at Livability Icanho?
I was looking for volunteer opportunities and noticed the Livability Icanho sign when I was passing the building. Then when I was looking online, I saw that Icanho had volunteer opportunities and invited people to walk in. And that led to me becoming a part-time volunteer on Tuesday mornings and I’ve been doing that for about six months.

Livability Icanho

What were your first impressions of Icanho?
The first person I met was Hayley, the office manager, and she’s a vibrant person, very friendly and made me feel at home. Plus the general feel of the place was smart, you can tell it’s a professional place and almost everywhere you looked, people are smiling; even when coming out of a therapy session, they still could afford to smile at you, and that really attracted me to Icanho.

And what does your role involve?
I provide support to the admin team. Sometimes this means I’m the first point of contact for clients, meeting them and making sure they’re settled, maybe showing them around the building. I also help with general admin stuff like filing and just anything I can assist with.

Supporting clients at Icanho

What do you feel is important about meeting and greeting clients?
Most of the clients you meet have had something traumatic happen to them, and they’re setting out on a journey of many steps. If I can help the way they start their day, just by talking to them and asking how they’re doing, that symbolises that their journey is going to be good and helps them look forward to the sessions they’re going to have. Sometimes people are a little bit nervous, but just asking them how they’re doing and how they’ve been coping throughout the week, it can make a difference. Sometimes people open up to you and tell you things have been difficult but that they’re holding on.

What do you bring to the role in terms of personality?
I think it’s a few things – being positive and optimistic, being friendly and being patient. Sometimes when someone has a brain injury, they don’t move as fast as you might want, and they may be forgetful, so you need to be very patient and understanding. I also try to support the admin team so things function as well as they can. So it’s not about me, it’s about others in the team and the clinicians and what they might want so I can make things easier for them. For instance, sometimes transport for clients is late so I can help with that, ease the burden on the clinicians and make things flow smoothly. Then everyone is happy and it’s a win-win.

Working with acquired brain injuries

Did you have any experience of people with acquired brain injury before?
No, this is my first experience. I’d also worked before with children with special needs. So this is quite different but I realise it was a good decision to come to Icanho and meet the challenge of something new.

Why do you think that?
When you come to a new place, you can think you’re going to be the one giving all the support, but actually I’ve found it’s me who’s benefited the most from the things I’ve learned here. I’ve learned so much about patience. From clients, I’ve learned that when things in life go badly, just get up and start afresh because I see people who have to start again, learning how to walk and to talk. I see how determined they are, even when sometimes people are in pain or going through a lot. They’re always positive and sometimes even ask me how I’m doing!

How will this role help your career, when you finish studying?
I think the experience here has been very good because my background is human resources and that is all about being a people person and being there for the whole organisation. So in my future career, I need patience and I need to be able to communicate well with everyone, at every level and every stage. Being here allows me to liaise with everyone and it’s taught me that everyone has different needs which need to be taken care of. You need to take a person-centred approach to everyone.

Volunteering at Icanho

How would you rate your volunteer experience at Icanho?
I have supportive colleagues, especially the admin team, and they’ve made things very easy for me. They’re always willing to show me how to do something. I feel they’re a bit like another family and I am very much part of the team and get include in all the activities, even if it’s not on my working day. Icanho is a great place to be, not only for your personal development but as somewhere you can give back to others. It’s somewhere you learn how to fight and persist for something good, which I’ve learned from our clients.

Do you have a memory you especially treasure from your Icanho experience?
For me, it’s the success stories, the clients’ stories. You can see the journey the person has been through, you notice positive changes in that person’s life and sometimes the positive feedback someone gives on their life, when you almost feel ‘this is happening to me’! That’s the kind of energy you get. One week there was a client who had a walking aid and he was struggling – he needed at least two clinicians to assist him to walk. So next week, the client comes back with his wife who’s like ‘just look at this!’ and the client is standing and walking on his own. I was like ‘wow, that was so fast!’ It’s not usually such a quick turnaround but it just makes me happy to know something you are doing is so positive.

Jo Marshall, Livability Icanho Service Manager says: ‘It’s been an absolute pleasure having Melody volunteer with us. Although Melody had not had experience of working with people with brain injury before she demonstrated compassion, a real interest in our work and keenness to learn and so has slotted into our team very well. We have benefitted from her existing skills which we have utilised to practically help our administration team and as her confidence has grown we have been able to introduce her to other tasks and responsibilities which she has found interesting and worthwhile too. It’s great to hear how positive an experience it’s been for Melody.’

Livability Icanho is looking for volunteers!

Icanho are currently in need for volunteer administrative support to help with:

  • Welcoming clients, family members, carers or friends to the centre
  • Guiding to the waiting room and client facilities
  • Directing either face-to-face visitors or telephone enquiries to the relevant person
  • Helping with printing and photocopying correspondence / documentation
  • Logging and distributing incoming post
  • Scanning documents to electronic files
  • Other tasks such as making outbound calls on behalf of clinicians and ordering stock

Helpful skills and experience include:

  • Polite demeanour and an appreciation of differing client needs
  • Computer literate, or willingness to learn how to scan and print documents, as well as very basic data entry
  • The ability to be mindful of the sensitive nature of the environment and the need to protect client confidentiality


The service is ideally looking for people who are able to commit to a minimum 6 hours a fortnight, as they have fluctuations in workload: however, the days can vary. Dates and times can be discussed.

Should you be interested or have any questions, please feel free to contact either Jo Marshall or Hayley Palmer on 01449 774161, or alternatively email: enquiries.icanho@livability.org.uk


About Livability Icanho

Livability Icanho provides highly specialised rehabilitation for adults with acquired brain injury.

Our clinical team delivers a bespoke programme of rehabilitation, aiming to develop a client’s independence via physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, clinical psychology, social work and access to rehabilitation assistants. Assistance is also available to their support network, be it family, friends or carers.

Find out more: Livability Icanho

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