A multiple sclerosis sufferer who thought he was useful for nothing more than walking his dog has been honoured for his voluntary work.
Ian Fletcher from Hadleigh picked up both the Overcoming Obstacles as well as the overall Volunteer of the Year awards at a ceremony to recognise staff and volunteers at cancer charity Sue Ryder.
Sue Ryder’s annual Incredible Colleagues awards recognise those who have gone the extra mile in making an outstanding contribution to the work of Sue Ryder.
The 58-year-old picked up the awards for his work as a volunteer for the Sue Ryder Synergy Café at Hadleigh and a neurological care centre in Ipswich, chosen from over 12,000 Sue Ryder volunteers.
Carmella Pugh, Synergy Cafes and Suffolk Dementia helpline coordinator, said: “We first met Ian at a difficult time in his life.
“Back in 2012 he was coming to terms with his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis - something he says put him in a dark place for a while.”
At the time he was feeling emotionally low, saying to one staff member: “I can’t do anything anymore – all I’m good for is walking the dog.”
The charity was able to convince him to join the charity’s specialist 10-week 5Rs programme that aims to support people living with MS.
Initially reluctant, Mr Fletcher joined. Meeting with nine other people he started to make new friendships, taking part in the activities designed to relax, rebuild, re-energise, re-integrate and regenerate.
“Ian slowly began to gain the confidence to pursue activities outside of the group and mentioned that he wanted to help others,” said Mrs Pugh.
“That’s when he started to chat with Lewis, our estates supervisor, and started his new journey as a Sue Ryder volunteer, working on improving the gardens and building.”
As his confidence grew and he felt he wanted to do more at Sue Ryder, so began volunteering at the Sue Ryder Synergy Café in Hadleigh.
Synergy Cafes support people living with dementia and their family carers once a week.
He started by helping set up of the café, then helping in the kitchen, before serving and clearing during lunch.
Now he’s a key member of the team and is currently working on ideas to help expand the café programme.
“We are so incredibly lucky to have Ian on board and are really thankful for all that he has done. It is great to have seen him come through the 5R’s and flourish as one of our most valued volunteers.
“Not bad for someone who can’t do anything anymore’,” said Mrs Pugh.