Zach Gowland

Zach is 28 years old and has been volunteering in Dame Hannahs Transit Way warehouse in Plymouth for three years. He has an acquired brain injury which has meant that he has needed constant support throughout his life. Aged 18 months he had a series of convulsions which left him without oxygen and consequently led to the ABI along with epilepsy.

Zach volunteers for Dame Hannahs two days a week as part of his Support and Care Package provided by Devon Local Authority with a focus on social inclusion. Supported volunteering is essential in order for Zach to cope with working in a big team in the warehouse. When he is working there he is always buddied up with a member of staff who guides him and helps him to stay focussed. The buddy needs to understand his disabilities because he finds it difficult to remain on task as he has a problem with his short term memory. Repeating tasks each week has helped him to learn what to do. He needs to know what he is doing in order to achieve his goals

His responsibilities are receiving donations brought to the shop and taking them to the sorting table and sorting through the dumpers full of toys and bedding. He also helps to load the van and occasionally goes out in the van to help with deliveries and collections. He enjoys processing donations the most and he is very helpful as he is very strong and therefore very helpful with lifting heavy goods.

He is happy working in the warehouse. During his time at Dame Hannahs he has learnt new skills, built friendships, thrived off the social interaction, learnt to be part of a team and feels less isolated. He is always willing to try and help and he knows that if he can’t help he needs to find someone else to help.

Since the age of 21 Zach has lived independently in his own flat while continuing to see his family regularly. Catching two buses to and from his home in Ivybridge every week has helped him to grow in independence and he has learnt to cope well. An invisible disability is hard to understand and Zach has had to learn to cope with teasing and certain adverse attitudes by taking deep breaths, counting to 10 and walking away.
It is important for Zach to have a structure to his week as it helps him to keep his head focused. He enjoys his routine working two days a week at Dame Hannahs and within the day he is very regimented about his timing. On the other days of the week he has set activities. He spends two days a week with his support worker Amanda who has taught him valuable skills and enables him to cook, do the housework and to grow his own vegetables as well as taking him on day trips. He also spends time with his mum and his grandparents.

Zach is a keen Plymouth Argyle football fan and regularly watches matches with his grandad. He also loves going to the cinema and walking on Dartmoor, particularly to the Ivybridge Beacon. He is a keen Royalist and very much enjoyed the Platinum Jubilee.

Mum Kathy has worked at the Dame Hannahs shop in Newton Abbot for 10 years, firstly as a volunteer and then as the manager. She was delighted when an opportunity arose for Zach within the charity.
“I have definitely seen an improvement since Zach started volunteering for Dame Hannahs. He gets on well with people in the warehouse and they have learnt how to handle him. His ABI affects his social skills and behaviour and he often jokes and says things to get a reaction. He now copes much better with a broad scope of personalities and his social skills and independence have grown. If he wasn’t at Dame Hannahs there is nothing else out there for those with hidden disabilities particularly as he doesn’t have a label. It is important for me to have free time to myself and we have a much better relationship now. Even though he lives in his own flat he still spends a lot of time with me and I never stop worrying about him. I am very pleased with how he has progressed since starting at Dame Hannahs.”