Hassocks mum overcomes depression with volunteering role at Drusillas

Erika with her daughter Kira, 19, and son Leo, 3, at Drusillas Park
Erika with her daughter Kira, 19, and son Leo, 3, at Drusillas Park

A Hassocks mum whose life was turned upside down when a car accident left her two-year-old daughter with a traumatic brain injury has found comfort in a volunteering role.

Erika Cullen has been volunteering at Drusillas Park near Alfriston in East Sussex since June and it has ‘changed her life’.

Erika Cullen

Erika Cullen

The mum-of-two who had to give up work to become a full-time carer for her severly disabled daughter Kira, now aged 19, has been able to stop her medication for depression.

She said: “I started volunteering at Drusillas in June and it has changed my life.

“Within a few weeks I felt happier, and I asked my doctor if I could come off my anti-depressants.

“I volunteer for one to two days a week and love educating the public and helping answer questions.

“Volunteering at Drusillas is a great opportunity to work with animals which can brighten your mood.

“It’s great fun, peaceful and therapeutic – I really miss it when I’m not there!”

The car accident which changed Erika’s life happened 17 years ago.

Since the accident Erika said she found herself feeling low and struggling to find the time to do things she wanted to do.

Thanks to support from carers, Erika recently found herself with some spare time, and an email from Drusillas Park asking for volunteers led to a phone call to find out more – and she has not looked back since.

A spokesman for Drusillas Park said: “Volunteering at Drusillas Park has lifted the spirits so high for Erika that she has been able to stop her medication for depression, and make time for herself in an environment where she is truly happy.”

Frankie Lawrence-Thompson, volunteer co-ordinator, added: “We are always looking for volunteers at Drusillas. You get full training so don’t need to know anything about the animals and no previous experience is necessary, a smile and good attitude are more important.”

To find out more about volunteering at Drusillas, visit www.drusillas.co.uk/volunteering-at-drusillas-park.

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