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Matthew Trower TITAN Travel Buddy

Matthew Trower

Matthew recently delivered the TITAN travel training, which helps young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and vulnerable young adults to become confident, independent travellers. He used his previous experience of both volunteering and working in a support role in schools and delivered travel training in areas such as Cromer and Sheringham.

'A few years ago I had been an estate agent but after suffering a spinal cord injury my life changed completely and it made me want to do something completely different.

Once my mobility was back to a reasonable level I volunteered at a local middle school as a teaching assistant. The school allowed me to study for an NVQ in Supporting Teaching and Learning, which was great and led to employment with the school. I worked in Year 6 where I supported youngsters with emotional and behaviour problems.

Being a Travel Buddy helped me become organised and time conscious. It enhanced the skill of being able to think on my feet, as well as be flexible and patient. It made me aware of being responsible for the safety of a vulnerable person and be alert to any potential problems.

One example of this was when I was training an autistic boy to learn the journey of catching the bus home from City College, Norwich (CCN) to his home outside of Norwich. He had done some travel training in the summer but needed lots more practice once college had opened. I started by meeting him in reception at CCN, then walked with him to the bus station, waited with him and put him on the correct bus. I would then contact his mum and tutor to let them know he was on his way home.

I then started stretching him, first waiting outside the college for him, then a little way down Ipswich Road. The next step was to meet him at the bus station. The first time we had arranged this he got confused and waited for me at the college. Understandably this threw him off course a little, but I didn't want this to ruin all his hard work so the next day (after much encouragement from his mum) we tried again. This time we stayed in contact on the phone the whole way. Without him knowing, I was at the bus station watching from a distance to make sure he got on the correct bus. I then contacted mum and his tutor to let them know all was well. After a week of this he finally was on his own, and to this day he gets the bus home on his own from CCN. It was so rewarding to see him achieve what he did and get on that bus with no support.

To be a volunteer Travel Buddy you obviously need to enjoy being around young people. You also need to have loads of patience, be a good communicator and - importantly - be able to read bus or train timetables!'

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