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Real Story: ‘Being Involved Has Given Me Hope for the Future’

Stephen first engaged with the STEM Innovation Project when he came along to a volunteering taster day, organised in partnership with St Mary’s Lighthouse.

The taster day involved volunteers taking part in rocky shore surveys and taking samples of the sea life found in the rock pools. Stephen really enjoyed the taster day, but his mobility issues meant that it was difficult for him to take part fully in the more practical tasks on the rocks.

However, the day re-ignited Stephen’s passion for marine biology, and he was keen to volunteer in this area if there was a role where he would not need to take part in the practical outdoors elements. Stephen had previously completed an environmental management degree and has been a keen environmentalist, but his health issues had stopped him from getting employment.

Volunteer Co-ordinator Claire Howard arranged a meeting with the Capturing Our Coast project based at the Dove Marine Laboratory in Cullercoats. After learning of Stephen’s mobility issues, they were able to tailor a volunteering role with the project where he could be based within the laboratory as a support to the kelp seaweed project. Stephen received training from Capturing Our Coast and the following week began his induction to the kelp project.

Stephen now volunteers fortnightly at the Dove Marine Laboratory, supporting the project to identify any sea life found on the kelp seaweed samples they have collected. Stephen’s role is to separate the samples into pots, measure the diameters of the seaweed, and record all information to go towards Capturing Our Coast’s research.

Stephen has recently been recognised for his volunteering support, by being named as the project’s ‘Top Co-Coaster’ and will appear in a national publication this month!

Stephen said:

‘Before engaging with MOTW and the STEM Innovation Project I had a long period of time struggling with my mental health. At the point of finding out about MOTW I was starting to feel more positive and was keen to look forward to develop and on my skills but needed someone to help me with that.

I had started to look into volunteering opportunities and was doing some volunteering, but needed some tailored support to look into roles that really interested me.

My barriers to employment, training, and volunteering have been my mental and physical health. I always felt like employers had a certain perception of people who had experienced health barriers and that I wouldn’t be considered for certain roles.

Being involved in MOTW has helped me to start to overcome these barriers by having staff on MOTW to support and guide me. I feel that my confidence is building and that, at a gradual pace, I am progressing in a really positive way. I am starting to feel valued.

Being involved in the STEM Innovation has built on my feelings of self-worth again, my self-esteem has improved and my confidence.

I have started volunteering in a role I really enjoy and have taken part in two group volunteering taster days. I have started to develop my CV and in January I also started the STEM-tastic training, which I am really enjoying. I am really enjoying all of these new experiences.

Being involved in the STEM Innovation Project has given me hope for the future. It has increased my awareness and given me a much more positive outlook. I am enjoying every opportunity put in front of me. I am happy to be part of something.’

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