One of the volunteers for Northampton Linking Lives recently wrote an encouraging summary of her role as a volunteer and the way in which both she and the man she visits have benefited from their contact. Here is her story:
Many people make New Year’s Resolutions every year, normally to get fit, get healthy, train for that marathon or start a new hobby. Around Christmas time last year, I committed to myself that I wanted to do something that gives back to the community and helps others, and so I set about searching for a volunteering opportunity that would fit in with an already busy lifestyle!
At 27, I work full time, socialise with friends and family, and I’m currently planning my wedding for later this year so things are pretty hectic! After scrolling through various charity roles online, I found an opportunity that was asking for a commitment of an hour of time a week to spend with an older person, offering companionship, friendship and time to listen. I sent a message to the coordinator, Angie, and we arranged a meet up to go through the role. At around the same time, numerous stories were hitting the headlines about loneliness and I was shocked to discover that the UK government had actually appointed a ‘Minister for Loneliness’. This seemed absolutely crazy but drove me further to be sure that this was the right thing to do, and I wanted to play my part to improve this.
After meeting Angie, I knew this was something I wanted to commit to. Whilst Angie was encouraging and positive about the opportunity she was also honest that it was sometimes a challenging volunteering role, but nevertheless, this is why it would be rewarding. She explained the process of referrals whereby older people could be referred to the charity sometimes family or friends and sometimes by doctors. After a short discussion about myself, Angie then suggested there was an elderly gentleman in my local area who was a widower and had not long had some medical problems that had been disrupting his mobility. She reassured me that she would support me throughout the volunteering process and she would always be there to speak to if needed. Ever the optimist I was up for the challenge and after I was provided some initial training, Angie arranged a meet up between the three of us at the gentleman’s home to get things started.
Nearly six months later, I am still visiting my Link friend and when possible we arrange to meet at a location suitable to spend some quality time together. The current favourites are a few local garden centres! I was unsure of what to expect from Linking Lives but after meeting other volunteers, who all visit people of various ages and situations, it became clear that; We are not carers, nurses, cleaners or even dog walkers – we are there solely for the purchase of friendship and companionship, and the main expectation of a Linking Lives volunteer is to offer quality time to listen and talk.
A benefit I didn’t expect from participating in a scheme like Linking Lives, is that it offers me perspective outside of my existing life. It is a pleasurable experience to connect with someone else who has a totally different perspective and approach to life, and also who I would never really come in contact with in my day to day life. My friend can have good days and bad days- but knowing I provide hopefully something for him to look forward to each week, no matter how small, is a nice feeling to have.
I would recommend the scheme to anyone who in the broadest sense, likes people and is driven by helping others.