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Celebrating Our Volunteers

Pat Le Rolland, AUKG's Chair of Trustees

Published on 29 May 2024 08:00 AM

Pat Le Rolland shares her twelve year experience as a volunteer for Age UK Gloucestershire in our celebration of one of many volunteering roles.

What inspired you to become involved with AUKG, as the Chair of Trustees in 2017?

I started at Age UK Gloucestershire as a volunteer on the Home from Hospital work in 2012. An advert had been put in my local post office as AUKG needed volunteers in the Forest of Dean (I was the only one in the Forest for quite a while!). I liked the team, the role and the purpose of visiting people on discharge and so when I saw an advert for a trustee role I applied and was accepted in 2014. In 2017, I became Chair of Trustees. I remained an Out of Hospital volunteer until the last couple of years.

My main motivation to become a volunteer at AUKG was my personal experience as a relative and part time carer for both parents and my aunt (the latter having dementia) in another county. Despite many years involved in health and social care I found ensuring my relatives were treated as individuals and with dignity until their deaths was incredibly challenging and at times utterly dispiriting. I wanted to ensure older people in Gloucestershire were respected, had support and effective care when wanted and needed.

Trustees work as a group, we all come from different places and that is one of the joys of working on a Board. A diverse set of people who enjoy a challenge, accept the responsibilities and who commit the time and effort for informed discussions and decisions. Trustees are not operational and it is the employees, led by the Chief Executive, who do the work. 

What do you think motivates people to volunteer, and why do you believe volunteering with AUKG is important?

Most people want to feel they have made a positive difference to others in their lifetimes, either directly or indirectly. Volunteering gives one a focus and a route to achieve that. Also, it is not selfless, volunteering is enjoyable and involves meeting interesting people. Specifically for AUKG, older people are interesting human beings who have survived into older age! Coming out of hospital everyone feels vulnerable, most are lucky enough to have someone to help. However, many do not.

In terms of why did I become a trustee and Chair – older people come from all walks of life, rich/poor, gay/straight, healthy or ill etc. AUKG needs to be a resource to everyone when needed or wanted, but we also need to challenge the ageism that is felt by many older people and challenge big issues such as cost of living, lack of IT access, worsening transport issues and loneliness. As a trustee and chair, we set the strategy to achieve that and guide/steer the organisation, we employ skilled and expert staff who can help us achieve that. However, none of us can do it all without the volunteers!  

Could you share a little about the work AUKG does and the impact it has on the community, particularly since you became chair?

The organisation has changed significantly over the years. When I started as a trustee we had day centres, vans, a shop and ran cleaning and shopping services, helping relatively small numbers of older people and running these at a loss. The new strategy finalised in 2017 was focused on being accessible to many more older people and their families and friends, working with communities and groups, facilitating and signposting for many more rather than doing lots of things for a few people.  We now help many thousands of people every year: we support social groups, healthy activities, and we provide an expert advise and referral system to any who call or contact us. We continue a vital and essential service of post hospital discharge support complementary to the statutory systems, and we help those older people who want to stay at home to do so.

Can you tell us about a particularly proud and memorable moment as Chair of Trustees during your time with the charity?

One particular day always brings a smile. It was a day when all trustees and all staff came together to confirm our shared values and agree how we would achieve the early steps in our strategy. Everyone was engaged, listening and contributing; there was much laughter, the usual banter and lots of food. Strategies are no help to man nor beast if in a drawer, they have to be lived and revived as people change so there will need to be more days like that in the future.

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges facing charities like AUKG today?

Statutory systems are struggling, everyone knows social care is struggling and is chronically underfunded but it is such a gigantic problem politicians and government bodies keep tinkering around but not addressing fundamental issues. This means charities have become the “go-to” organisations both for delivery of services and filling the gaps, but with a view that we can do everything cheaply and we cannot! Grant funders are very risk averse on the whole and tend to do short term funding so all charities (except the giant and/or in fashion ones) have to manage from one pot of money to the next.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering volunteering as a Trustee with AUKG?

Do it! There are all sorts and types of volunteering, so one can choose the type that suits you. I volunteered for the out of hospital scheme because it was and is flexible and can be fitted around my other commitments. You can commit to what works for you and everyone at AUKG gets that, you may do more one year and less the next, you may wish to stay local to your home or move around Gloucestershire, both are possible. There is no one type of volunteer and if you have a good idea and see a gap tell us!

Your tenure will come to an end later this year after 12 years of incredible service. What are your plans thereafter?

I already volunteer at another charity focused on young adults so will continue that for the moment. I haven’t decided on what else yet but I am looking at options. I have few skills on the domestic front and now I am one of the older people in Gloucestershire gardening though lovely is tiring, so I need something to save me from mischief 😉

Looking ahead, what are your hopes and aspirations for the future of AUKG, and how does the Trustees’ role fit into this vision?

Trustees are the guardians of the charity and they will need to keep revisiting the Strategy to see that AUKG is making a very real and positive impact on as many older people in Gloucestershire as possible. AUKG should work with other organisations to prevent or reduce problems for older people and that means age-friendly societies where transport, health care and social connection are accessible with ease. I believe AUKG will increasingly work with other charities and organisations across the whole life span. I also believe it is AUKG’s ongoing duty to challenge ageism in all its forms.

Interested in becoming a trustee for Age UK Gloucestershire? 

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