Jordan Fernando, 20, is an autistic volunteer from North Ayrshire, Scotland. School wasn’t always easy for Jordan, as she had to confront bullies. But having a Social Base for pupils with learning difficulties to go to at break times and a supportive guidance teacher helped. She tells us about how she got into volunteering and her plans for the future.
My Mum Suzanne has been an activist for both Cervical Cancer and Autism for about 16 years. Since I was very little, I often would accompany her on many fundraisers, speeches and would really enjoy them. It’s not been an easy journey for me throughout the years but with help and support from family and friends along the way, I’ve managed to adapt and cope with autism as best I can.
I've been volunteering with The National Autistic Society alongside my family now since I was three years old (around the time I was diagnosed with autism). I am now 20 so you could say the best part of 17 years now, however more independently since about the age of 15.
Now that I have graduated from school and passed all my exams, I've actively sought out opportunities at the charity. I enjoy volunteering at The One Stop Shop in Kilmarnock, which is one of my favourite roles. I occasionally attend the girls’ group in Glasgow, am a Young Campaigner, assist in the local health radio station and especially enjoy organising annual coffee mornings too.
I was nominated as an official Baton Bearer in 2014 for my voluntary work with the charity, and more recently, I was a finalist in the Autism Professionals Awards 2017. As the years went by, I would regularly tell anyone that would listen that one day I'd volunteer/work for The National Autistic Society.
It's been my passion to raise awareness wherever and whenever I can which is one of the many reasons I decided to set up my own newsletter "JUST Jordan". I really enjoy engaging with my members, answering questions, providing information and developing new ideas and stories. Since setting up my newsletter, my local MP Jamie Greene was so impressed with our family’s volunteering and fundraisers over the years that he invited us to the Scottish Parliament as local heroes. My sister Aaron attended on my behalf and a copy of my newsletter was distributed around the members of parliament and gained great reviews from all, which was just awesome.
The volunteering department have encouraged me to reach my full potential and grab every opportunity that is best suited to my abilities. My mentor (well I call her my mentor as she's been a rock to me) Fiona Bain has been a superb source of information and support and actively encourages me to take part in new and exciting ventures. Volunteering with the charity has made a huge difference to my life.
I am passionate about raising awareness about autism, and I have won two awards for my voluntary work at the charity. My desire to help others and provide care to those in need gets me out of bed in the morning to go and volunteer. I love what I do and can't envision doing anything else with my life. I am sure in time the right job will arise within the charity for me and I'll never look back. Meantime however am happy continuing to volunteer for such an amazing charity and I'd personally like to thank everyone involved who has helped me become the person I am today.
I've learnt over the years that having autism has its challenges for sure and I am different from many, but in no way am I any less of a person. I embrace autism and love the person and young woman I've grown into and wouldn't change a single thing. We all need to remember that those of us on the spectrum are so much more than just a diagnosis. Autism is part of who we are, it's not everything. Let's face it even if you’re not on the spectrum there is clearly no such thing as a normal person, we're all unique and we're all different. That's what makes the world such a fascinating place to be in!
I often recommend volunteering with the charity as it brings me so much joy and I've no doubt the work I do will ultimately help me find the perfect job role. I've learnt many additional skills from my role in volunteering with the charity.