At the start of April, we were excited that our new National Development Manager for Scotland began her role. Michelle Candlish lives in Glasgow and here is a Q & A which outlines her role, hobbies and interests:
How would you describe yourself?
I would describe myself as Skirish – made by Irish and born in Scotland. I asked my son to describe me and he said ‘colourful in every sense of the word.’ I love to try new things and I’ve been learning to play the guitar for 28 years! An ideal holiday is exploring new places, meeting the locals and trying different cuisines.
What do you do in your spare time?
Walking in the woods whilst enjoying all the sensory experiences is my favourite place to recharge and unwind. I try to keep fit by attending classes and going for a swim in my local sports centre. I love going to Ceroc with my husband, which is a French form of jive. I am involved in pastoral care, women’s ministry and crafternoon at my church. I would rather listen to somebody’s life story than read a book.
What is your working experience?
I’ve had many jobs over the years from working in a Bank, teaching Zumba to more recently Dementia Link Working. All my jobs have involved working directly with people and supporting them in some way. I attended university and gained an Honours Degree in Occupational Therapy as a mature student and savoured every moment of the experience. I don’t believe age is a barrier.
Why did you want to work with Linking Lives UK?
I understand from my experience of working with older people, the effect loneliness can have on a person’s physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Many older people find themselves unable to attend church and social activities for reasons such as, compromised mobility, health issues, loss of driving licence/transport difficulties, the loss of a partner and many other reasons. The idea of connecting our valued older population through befriending schemes seemed like a rewarding role, especially as Scotland has an aging population.
What is your role with Linking Lives UK?
My role is to establish new befriending schemes across Scotland and enable churches to receive training for their volunteers who give their time to informal community-based social groups. Also, to link volunteers with our ‘Good Conversations’ training framework and – working with partners – to train volunteer chaplains to support older people in their spiritual journeys.
How will you achieve this?
I will achieve this by building links and relationships within the faith community in Scotland. I hope that we can be a part of a greater breadth and cohesion in cross-sector working between agencies working to reduce loneliness and isolation by building networks with other charities, local authorities, clinical Commissioning Groups, NHS Trusts, geographically focused transformation groups.
Why are volunteers important for Befriending Schemes?
Volunteers are a vital asset to churches and other organisations as their knowledge and skill sets are invaluable. 1 Peter 4:10 encourages using one’s gifts to serve others as good stewards of God’s grace and by volunteering Christians demonstrate God’s love in action. Without willing volunteers we would not be able to run befriending schemes, it’s as simple as that.
What differences do you think Linking Lives will make in Scotland?
In 2018 the Scottish Government announced its first strategy to tackle Social Isolation and Loneliness. The Social Isolation and Loneliness Advisory Group formed from this strategy explain, their ‘aim is to help people in Scotland to feel less lonely and to get in touch with other people more.’
The work off Linking Lives UK in Scotland will help people understand how bad loneliness is, and how to change it. It will also connect people through befriending schemes to reduce loneliness and isolation and, in doing so; reduce the negative impact on health and wellbeing. This will ultimately alleviate some of the impact of an over- stretched NHS, Social Care System and Cost of Living Crisis.