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Sheila, finding her confidence

A volunteer plants flowers next to the canal

Ten years ago, Sheila McGough was mugged and badly beaten. Left with post-traumatic stress disorder and severe anxiety, she couldn't leave the house on her own. Volunteering with us has helped Sheila transform her health and given her the confidence to travel to Canada to meet her new grandchild.

In Sheila's words

Trapped at home

The mugging threw me completely. I didn't go anywhere or do anything. I was afraid of my own shadow. I had night terrors which got so bad that I developed heart problems and had to have a pacemaker fitted.

Three years ago, I decided to get therapy as I was losing out on my life. I didn't want this to beat me anymore and I needed to learn how to go out on my own.

Meeting my volunteer coordinator

I joined my local Slimming World group as my weight had become an issue and it challenged me to leave the house. It was there that I met Emma Fielding from the Trust. She saw that I was sitting in the corner on my own at meetings and not getting involved. She asked me to join her, and we chatted over a cup of tea.

Emma picked up that I was having a tough time and she asked me to do a bit of volunteering with the Trust. Emma is an amazing person, she put me at ease and made me feel safe. That's how I started volunteering.

Sheila and Emma, volunteer and coordinator

Transforming my health

Going volunteering for the Trust has not only given structure to my life, but it has also given me my life back. Within the first month it started to transform my mental, physical and emotional health. It's had a huge impact on me.

Emma knew how to make me feel comfortable to go on the towpath and walk with other people. I've been involved with projects making repairs to the towpath, litter picking and putting in stock fencing. I've travelled to places like Liverpool and Wigan, which I never had the confidence to do before.

I was even on the charity's float for Manchester Pride. I can't believe I went to an event where there were thousands of people. It was such a fun day and I laugh and smile just thinking about it now.

Improving my life

I was so lonely before, but Emma and the Trust in Burnley have become my second family. I love every second with them.

I've learnt so much about the canal, its history and its importance in our community. Getting outside in beautiful surroundings and meeting some amazing people gives me purpose.

If I wasn't volunteering, I would be at home sitting in a corner unable to go out.

Sheila, volunteer

The confidence to travel again

Because of the confidence that volunteering as given me, I managed to get on a flight to Canada in the summer to meet my new baby grandson. If someone had told me five years ago that I'd travel to Canada on my own, I'd have laughed and said, ‘no way!'.

The Canal & River Trust saved me mentally. I would never be where I am today if it wasn't for volunteering.

photo of a location on the canals
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