Disability and arts News and blogs Stuart Nassos Volunteer Story Stuart Nassos - Volunteer story I first joined Orpheus as a Befriender in 2012. I was looking for a local charity with which I could identify, and where I could volunteer a few hours a week. Because my niece is disabled, with autism and a number of other disabilities, Orpheus was a natural fit. I wanted a greater ability to work and communicate with disabled young adults which I would be able to apply when I make my twice-yearly trips back to the family in the US. In return, I hoped that the Orpheus students would gain something from my interests and experience – I work in on-line travel, and of course, am not a Brit! Initially I visited Orpheus a few hours per week to assist with activities. It allowed me to meet most of the students and I formed friendships immediately with many of them. One student, Ashely Lucas, really stood out as a funny and kind young man. When weekdays became difficult, due to work commitments, I was assigned a weekend befriender opportunity. My first student was Raf Muir, who is a wonderful, intelligent and creative person. I got to see so much of the world through his eyes: his dreams and interests, and reaction to my work and life. We chatted each Saturday about so many things, and I am still in regular touch with Raf by Facebook. We also manage to meet up occasionally. My second student was Joshua Ball. Josh was a lovely student, who was very shy to begin with – we would get together and just sit and watch his favourite videos (musicals mostly) and chat a little. Over the course of a few months though, Joshua began to open up, becoming a very animated, funny and interactive young soul who loved playing with my dog Jasper. Joshua is now a married man, marrying Sally shortly after leaving Orpheus As my available time continued to shrink, I looked for other ways to maintain my involvement with Orpheus. I happened to meet up with a good friend of mine from the States who had some very big fundraising accomplishments she delivered upon for a similar charity. I met the Development Board to pitch my (her) idea. This has convinced me that this is where my time would now be best spent – raising awareness and funds for Orpheus, as well as looking for partnerships with various organisations that could mutually develop over time. There are organisations that assist the disabled in the U.S., of course. My niece is part of 'STARability' which focuses on providing daily educational and entertaining experiences for their attendees. Unlike Orpheus, STARability is not focused on the arts and there are no boarding facilities, but it does offer many other similar developmental opportunities. They are a non profit organisation that is supported virtually entirely by private donors much like Orpheus.