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Celebrating Volunteers' Week 2020

Published on 02 June 2020 02:19 PM

From 1st to 8th June we are celebrating national Volunteers’ Week.

Volunteers at Age UK Bristol are involved in a wide range of services and activities supporting older people. This includes helping at our New Beginnings Day Centre, offering specialist benefits advice,  staffing our reception and, since the outbreak of coronavirus, fronting the coalition of organisations in the  Coronavirus Support Hub for Older People.

Last year we marked volunteer’s week with a picnic in the park and in previous years we’ve run awards ceremonies. Whilst neither of these options are available to us this year, we still wanted to celebrate the huge contribution our volunteers make every day. We’ve interviewed Clare Havard, Age UK Bristol’s Volunteer Coordinator, and three of our dedicated volunteers to share their experiences of volunteering.

“The impact volunteers have on Age UK Bristol is incalculable – we couldn’t function without them.” Says Clare Havard, Age UK Bristol’s Volunteer Coordinator. Since the lockdown, Clare has been bowled over by the number of people coming forwards to volunteer and spends her days recruiting, training and supporting new and existing volunteers via zoom meeting, phone calls and emails.

“It’s lovely to see the positive impact that volunteers have on our clients.” Clare says. “Many of the people we work with are looked after by paid carers, so to spend time with people who have volunteered to visit them is really powerful and helps them to feel part of their community.”

We know that volunteering has a positive impact on clients, Clare believes that many of our volunteers have benefited from the arrangement too. Volunteering can help with professional skills and experience. But even more importantly, it gives the volunteer a feeling of making a difference in someone else’s life. The New Beginnings centre received the below email from the mother of a volunteer with learning difficulties who previously volunteered at the New Beginnings Centre and then went on to get a job in the care industry.

It is because of you and your colleagues and the experience you have enabled him to gain that he has been able to secure this position and as a family we are all so grateful to you, your staff and the service users. My son has enjoyed every minute and I know will miss you all dearly, however I know he will be up to visit!”

So, what do our volunteers think?

 

Meet Funlola:

Funlola has volunteered for Age UK Bristol since 2018. She volunteers eight hours a week on reception where she meets and greets our clients, answers the phone and supports with any ad hoc admin tasks the rest of the team need help with. Since Covid-19, Funlola has volunteered on the Support Hub Helpline.

“It’s really good for me, I feel fulfilled when we get phone calls from clients who are so grateful for all the support Age UK Bristol gives them.

The best thing is meeting all the different people, different lifestyles, different ages varying from 55-95. I made a friend for life with another one of the volunteers, and also the rest of the staff are very friendly and we go out for drinks or dinners sometimes.”

Since volunteering for Age UK Bristol, Funlola has also learnt more about the services available to older people in the area. She has enjoyed being able to refer these services to clients, and has also utilised them herself. “I’m a member of FAB (Friends Ageing Better) and I’ve been to a lot of their events, I even won a prize at one of their discos!”

 

Meet Mike:

Mike has volunteered for our Information and Advice helpline for twelve years where he advises clients on a variety of topics including benefits advice, lasting power of attorney and social care services.

“I like to think I’m a people person, I enjoy helping people and a lot of the clients we get at Age UK Bristol are in severe distress, financial or otherwise. It’s a wonderful feeling to be in a position where I can make a difference. Over the phone I try to be calm, and help them relax and realise that we can help.”

Before volunteering for Age UK Bristol, Mike experienced mental health issues. Mike wanted to volunteer and ‘keep his brain active’ using the skills he’d built up after 40 years working as a senior solicitor. “I’ve never hidden the fact that I had to retire due to mental health, its no different from any other disease,” Mike explains. “Some of my happiest memories at Age UK Bristol have been seeing the team help someone who was short of money and very anxious, that has been most rewarding.  I believe volunteering has helped me with my recovery.”

The Information & Advice Service is supporting people over the phone during the current situation.

 

Meet Hannah:

Hannah volunteers for our Active Together service, a befriending service that matches volunteers with an older person living with dementia. She has volunteered with the same ‘buddy’ since she started in 2018. Under normal circumstances the pair enjoy going for walks together with Hannah’s dog, going to cafes and visiting the occasional exhibit at M Shed. During lockdown, Hannah has been making regular phone calls to her buddy to check she is ok.

“The Active Together project really stood out for me, I’ve always been interested in health and wellbeing. When I first started volunteering, I was employed as a dog walker and I spent a lot of time on my own, I enjoyed the social side of volunteering for Age UK Bristol.”

Hannah has since become a firefighter and believes the experience and knowledge she has gained from volunteering with someone who has dementia has been beneficial to her role. “As a firefighter we go into vulnerable people’s houses; volunteering has given me an understanding of people living with dementia. I am more aware and more sensitive as a result of volunteering.”

 

We’d like to finish with one more HUGE thank you to all our volunteers.

Thank you to our existing volunteers for staying with us through lockdown when your roles have had to change and adapt to the circumstances, thank you to our new volunteers who have brought a range of new abilities and skills to our services. And thank you to the volunteers who are being patient with us, we hope that when lockdown ends you will ready to re-join us as we have missed you! We are going to have one great welcome back party.

If you would like to join our team of volunteers, check our website for current vacancies and you can get in touch with Clare for a chat. Don’t forget the importance of being a good neighbour and friend. Check in on your older neighbour, say hello and see if they need anything.