Mohammad started volunteering with Age UK Camden when he left university. He had grown up in Camden and, coming back after graduation, he decided he wanted to get more involved with the local community. You can watch a short clip of him talking about his experience on BBC Asian Network.
How long have you been volunteering?
I have been volunteering for just over five years. In that period I've been fortunate enough to have met four wonderful individuals.
What does the role involve?
First your coordinator will match you up with a befriendee. My coordinator is Tracey McDermott and her support is priceless. Your coordinator will talk you through any situation and provide support in the initial stages and throughout.
You will organise a regular time each week to visit your befriendee. Often it is the only contact they will have all week (that is not from a paid service). You're building a long term friendship so it can take some time, depending on how the relationship and visits unfold. Over time you’ll build a unique and special bond with the older person and enjoy it so much you often forget its volunteering!
Are there any challenges?
There are times when you can’t connect in the way you want to. People have different impairments, sometimes speech communication problems, and that can cause a few issues when you’re trying to build a relationship. Miscommunication can cause frustration. But although there are challenges, the benefits are far greater.
What do you do on a day to day basis?
I am extremely grateful for discovering my passion for caring for older people through volunteering at Age UK Camden. I now work in a local extra care service for older people as a deputy manager. I care and support up to 33 individuals and manage a care team of a similar size. Even though it’s a tough job with immense responsibility, it’s magical and I love it!
What’s your favourite thing about volunteering?
I really enjoy building relationships with older people, and being able to make a difference to people who really are isolated. It's a real honour to build a meaningful relationship with a person coming towards the last chapter of their life. In my first two years as a volunteer, I met a wonderfully eccentric lady from Montserrat. I visited her in the last two years of her life, it was fun and interesting as well as deep and meaningful. The special moments I had with her and the memories and lessons are my favourite things about volunteering with AUC.
How have you used the skills you’ve learned?
Yes it was my experience as a volunteer that led me to my current career, it gave me the passion to be in this sector.
I also write essays about my experiences - all the stories, wisdom, life lessons and laughter. I learned so much, it has shaped the person I am today. Real human skills for life, like building meaningful relationships, being caring, being faithful, reflecting on the past, letting go of the smaller things, and valuing the important things in life.
What other benefits are there? Have you learned anything surprising?
It's all been a surprise as I didn't know what to expect. Well, I guess maybe learning about a loving marriage! The lady I visit was married for over 60 years. I aspire to have such a beautiful love with my wife and over the years I hope I've picked up some life lessons about what it means to have a soul mate and deep connection to another human. I really feel the deep sense of love the lady I visit has, not only does it inspire me but reminds me what is important in life.