Q: Why did you choose to become a volunteer?
A: I had free time on my hands and I wanted to do something useful with it. I had been looking for something like this for a long time, so I feel it was a bit of fate for me because I saw the advert for St John’s Hand in Hand in the paper, and I really enjoy working with older people. I’ve got a lot of experience with this in the past.
I think it’s a really rewarding role; you can make a real difference to people’s lives.
I’m from Eastleigh originally and trained to be a nurse in Leeds. After this I worked in London in Intensive Care Nursing. I did this for a while then went travelling for 8 months, and eventually got married. We then decided to return to the area, had children and my husband set up a business. I needed to be around more when the business was set up, but I missed working as a team and looking after and supporting people in this way so I signed up to join Hand in Hand as a volunteer.
The role looked absolutely perfect for me, and was just what I had been searching for.
We meet with the other volunteers regularly, and are clicking more and more each time we meet up and are getting to know each other’s personalities and stories. I feel this is the same with our scheme members.
Each time I visit my ladies, we bond more and we understand and trust each other. I made Welsh cakes for one of my scheme members for her birthday (she was Welsh) and the joy on her face was wonderful.
I actually volunteered a long time ago. I worked for a mental health charity in Leeds while I was training [for my degree]. I worked with a young person with Asperger’s. That was quite challenging, but it is such a rewarding thing to do.
Q: What have you found surprising about volunteering? Have you discovered anything new?
A: As a volunteer, I’ve found that it’s sometimes easier doing things for a person than it is for their family members. For example, one of my scheme members is distressed about how much she has in her house. It’s got to the point where she has clothes everywhere and has lots of piles on the floor, and she finds it difficult to manage. She has family and children, but they live abroad and live far away and all work – life is very busy – and I feel that sometimes relatives can even find it emotionally challenging to clear items. It’s not just about time, it can be a sentimental aspect, too. But physically she is unable to do this herself. I’m now spending two or three hours a week with her, going through her clothes. The time is going to come when she needs to fit items such as a walking frame or a commode in her room, which currently is not possible. If the room stayed the same this would be unsafe and hazardous.
I’m helping her to organise her bedroom, bag up and take clothes to the charity shop, and find new homes for some items.
The difference it has made… You can’t imagine. She can now shut her wardrobe. It’s the small things like this that mean the world to someone, even as simple as being able to shut a wardrobe can improve and bring back quality in your life.
Everything is so instant and automatic in society today. It can be isolating for older people, especially if they have limited mobility. You can feel rushed and a burden, worrying that you’re not going fast enough and you’re too slow. One of my scheme members feels like this, and it is a source of worry for her.
Something as simple as hiring a wheelchair for the day vastly improved her experience of having a day out. She was worrying less and, in fact, she hadn’t been out in the evening for ten years!
We often go to the theatre together now, as hiring a wheelchair has made this possible. It was an option that she didn’t think was available to her previously.
For some older people, they feel like all the doors are closed. As a volunteer, we open up new possibilities, and open new doors.
This blog post is part of national Volunteers’ Week (1st – 7th June 2019). #VolunteersWeek – get involved and #ShareYourStory!