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A Volunteer ponders on their Volunteering Experience

This month we hear from our volunteer Vern, about her volunteering experience with Volunteer Link.

What have I learned from visiting Janet, 90, no family and with sight and mobility problems?

I have learned about London during the blitz. Listening to her describe spending the night in an Anderson Shelter: crashes outside, not knowing if your home will still be standing when you come out. Water and condensation dripping down the walls, onto your bed. Freezing cold in winter.

I have learned that pavements are treacherous: sudden gaps in the paving stones can cause stumbles. The pavement slopes steeply and accessing the crossing in the rain can be slippery.

I have learnt you can survive losing your whole family, survive loneliness and disability with stoicism and sheer resilience. You can keep going despite illness, disability and heart-break. You can be grateful for little things. Truly, it has shifted my perspective; encouraged me to be grateful for the little things, and appreciate family, friends get a sense of proportion over difficulties I face. We don’t discuss my problems of course, but her grit and resilience is awe-inspiring and encourages me to feel grateful for what I have.  Don’t think it’s all gloom and doom, we laugh and joke as we go shopping. Her observations in the supermarket are priceless! Who knew people still bought processed peas? I have learnt to search for the perfect bread roll. Who knew?

I have learnt about growing vegetables: with her advice I have planted seedlings, and am growing a range of vegetables. She misses her allotment that she can no longer work because she can’t get down the two flights of stairs on her own.

I have learnt that you can laugh at little things and smile at people who promise to visit but never do. 

I have learnt you can shop without a list and remember information without putting it in your phone or on paper.

I have learnt how to survive the apocalypse; two freezers with everything you need to survive in case no-one can take you out shopping. Some things I doubt you’re meant to freeze but it all goes in. 

I have learnt to avoid all waste, to save and re-use, to value little treats.

My world view has broadened. We don’t always agree, and I keep my mouth shut but learn to understand how and why people’s experiences lead them to see differently from me and I have learnt not to judge.

We have a good relationship: she has broadened my horizons and I have learnt to be grateful and value what I have. She is a window on the past, another perspective on the present and I am so glad I got involved in Befriending. I have gained so much from Janet, I have learnt you can survive the unthinkable and enjoy the little things.

I am so glad I took the plunge and volunteered. I thought I was helping others and seem to have helped myself. Who knew? 

Spring is Here

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Spring is well and truly here. The clocks have gone back, the days are longer and we are enjoying the lighter evenings. Often we have more energy at this time of year and we can fit much more into our days. We also have Easter coming up which can be a time of family gatherings and celebration and we are currently in Lent, sometimes a time for giving.

For our isolated and lonely clients, however, the time of year often does not make much difference, this is especially so if they can’t get out, and have few, if any, friends and family to celebrate anything with. But a volunteer visitor always brings a breath of fresh air. Our volunteer befrienders visit their clients on a weekly basis for 2 to 3 hours.

We have more demand for our service than ever and we have a waiting list of local lonely and isolated people wanting volunteer visitors. We have a Volunteer Induction training day coming up on Saturday 1st June, at 9.30 am to 3 pm at a venue in Hanwell. Please contact Bridget Morris, Volunteer Coordinator on 020-8434-3635 or at bridget@volunteerlink.org.uk if you would like to find out more and/or apply to become a volunteer with us. Volunteers join a friendly team and we hold regular meetings and social events for them.

One of our volunteers, Sue, says the following about her volunteering: –

The elderly ladies I have visited all came to the Ealing area from other countries, and I have found that our conversations have given me a fascinating insight into their past experiences which I really appreciate. I would never have learned about these things had I not met them through my VLS visiting.  

 

 

5 Ways to Well-Being

by Susan Gilchrist, Linked Minds Coordinator

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Mental health and wellbeing is something that effects all of us. Even if we have never met anyone with a diagnosis of a mental health problem, our own experience tells us we all exist on a spectrum of mental wellbeing, having good days and bad days, good times and bad times.

Reflecting an understanding that Mental Health and Wellbeing is something that effects all of us in 2008 the UK government commissioned the New Economic Foundation (NEF a public policy think tank) to look at all of the current research that had been done into how people can look after their own mental wellbeing. The NEF came up with a report that proposed 5 positive things people could do to look after their mental wellbeing, they are:- being active, taking notice, learning, giving and connecting.

The 5 ways to wellbeing don’t always work in isolation to each other, often 1 thing leads to another.

A couple of years ago as I was rushing through a graveyard in Hammersmith walking from one office to a meeting in another I heard a woodpecker. I stopped to have a look to see if could see it. A man walking toward me, saw me and asked what I was doing, “I’m looking for that woodpecker” I said “can you hear it?”. He started to look about as well, then another person stopped and said to him “what are you doing?” “we’re looking for that woodpecker” he said “can you hear it?”, and so that person stopped, then another, then another, eventually there were 6 of us. “Look!!! There it is!” the 2nd man spotted it on the side of a tree. We all smiled at each other and marvelled at seeing a woodpecker in central London. Someone looked it up on his phone and told us what kind of woodpecker it was. It was a fantastic, joyful experience, I think about it often.

It would not have been so special without the other people there to share it with me, it would never have happened if id taken the bus or if I hadn’t stopped for just a minute to look, I appreciated the man telling me about the woodpecker and I think the others did too & i went home and looked it up myself.

Connections, being active, taking notice, giving and learning. The 5 ways to wellbeing.

How could you incorporate the 5 ways to wellbeing into meetings with a befriendee? Email us if you are interested in volunteering with us at volunteering@volunteerlink.org.uk

 

 

Words from a Volunteer

This month we hear from our volunteer, Nicola Warren.

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When I was first paired with a befriendee, I was excited.  We had a lot in common: our African roots, our Portuguese heritage and she had been a great dancer in her time (I love dancing!).  When we met face-to-face, I found a genteel lady with a warm smile.  She was accompanied by her husband, who facilitated our early visits as his wife had not been feeling too strong.  Sadly, she passed away a few weeks later.

The VLS team handled this well.  They notified me of her passing and suggested I take some time to consider if I wanted to continue as a volunteer (yes, I did).  They then asked what I thought about visiting the lady’s husband.  Recently bereaved, they felt that he could use the company of someone who had met his wife and had some understanding of his situation.  So, nine months ago that is what I did.

My experience of volunteering has been different to what I expected.  I thought that I would be helping my befriendee to get out and about, or perhaps do a spot of admin, or even come up with a puzzle or activity to keep us occupied.  But this is not the case.  Instead, I am welcomed with a cup of tea and a cooked lunch, accompanied by stories of an interesting life and discussions on topics ranging from who will go out of Strictly to the afterlife.  It is never dull – and I always learn something new (for example, the recipe for sardine curry – which is now a family favourite).

I am there to support him, yet my befriendee is a great cook and a generous host – so it sometimes feels that I am the one benefiting most.  In fact, his generosity has been the only source of difficulty I have encountered to date (thankfully, deflecting gifts was covered in the VLS training).

Befriending has shown me the importance of real human connection in the absence of the distractions so common in our multi-tasking obsessed environments.

 

 

 

Are You Making Holiday Plans?

Now we are into another new year, you, like me, might be starting to make holiday plans for the year ahead. During the cold, dark Winter months, it can be especially consoling to make holiday plans for the year, to start booking trips away, researching where you are going to visit and planning an itinerary. It’s great to anticipate your holidays and it means you can start enjoying the experience right away. 

Spare a thought, however, for a lonely and isolated person who does not have this pleasure. They may be confined to their home and will also experience the cold and dark Winter months, but unlike you, won’t have the joy of holidays and trips away to look forward to because they cannot leave their home easily. Perhaps they don’t have anyone to travel with anyway, as they may be short of family and friends.  

Now think about what a positive difference you could make to the life of such a person. You wouldn’t be going on holiday with them, but by volunteering with Volunteer Link you could visit and spend time with them, giving them a break from their own company. They are likely to want to know about your holidays, and plans for the year, even if they don’t have any of their own. Perhaps if they hear about these it might remind them of their own holidays in the past, and they would enjoy telling you about them. You might like to hear about their experiences, perhaps getting ideas for yourself. 

If you are interested in visiting an isolated and lonely person who has difficulty in leaving their home, please consider volunteering with us at Volunteer Link. Volunteer Befriending can be hugely rewarding and enjoyable and we have a waiting list of clients who would love to have visits from you. We work throughout the London borough of Ealing. Our next Volunteers Induction training will be on Saturday 2nd March either at Boundary House or a venue nearby in Hanwell.  For more information email the Volunteer Coordinator on volunteering@volunteerlink.org.uk  We would love to see you there.

The Joy of Christmas Shopping

It’s that time of year again, when, for most of us, love it or hate it, Christmas shopping beckons with all those things we need to buy to ensure we and our loved ones have a perfect Christmas. It can feel like a real chore. Especially when the weather is cold, dark and wet and perhaps we are feeling tired and have low energy as the year draws to a close.

But imagine how it would be if you couldn’t get out to the shops to get the things that you need, and you didn’t have a clue how to do online shopping and you didn’t have a computer or internet connection anyway. On top of that you keep hearing all the time – on the tv, the radio, in the newspapers about Christmas, what other people are doing and the preparations they are making. Perhaps you haven’t even got anyone to buy a present for anyway and you are going to be spending Christmas day quite alone, like most of your other days.  On top of that you can’t do very much except watch tv which is telling you constantly about the big event that you will be missing out on.

This is how life is for many of our lonely and isolated clients, and together with cold and dark days it can mean that this time of year is even more difficult than usual.

If you think about it then, your extra shopping for Christmas is not such a big deal. And aren’t you lucky being able to go out and about, as and when you please, without giving it a second thought? How about making a positive difference to the life of someone who doesn’t have this luxury by volunteering with Volunteer Link? You would be spending up to two hours per week with someone who is lonely and isolated and has few visitors. Our volunteers can be lifelines for our clients.


Our next Volunteers Induction training is on Wednesday 16th January, 9.30 am to 3 pm at a venue in Hanwell. Please contact the Volunteer Coordinator on volunteering@volunteerlink.org.uk for more details.

Volunteering can be Personal Development

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One of the ways in which Volunteer Link promotes its volunteering opportunities is as a form of personal development, and this month I have taken some time to look at what exactly we mean by this well used term. When I google the words ‘personal development’ Wikipedia comes up with the following:-

Personal development covers activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance the quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations.

Wow, personal development sounds pretty good. Wouldn’t we all want these things? Can volunteering with Volunteer Link really be described as personal development though? Let’s take a closer look.

Does befriending volunteering improve our awareness and identity? I think so. We are certainly going to have a lot more awareness of what the issues are for lonely and isolated people when we start to spend time with them. It can also improve our identity, because as we get to know another person we become more connected with our own identity.

Develop talents and potential –  volunteers are developing their talent of befriending all the time and thus expanding their potential.

Building human capital, our volunteers are certainly doing that as they voluntarily support and give to another, and facilitate employability – it is well documented that volunteering experience can be as relevant as work experience in the eyes of employers.

Finally, enhance the quality of life. It is known that giving to others is one of the things that gives us the greatest happiness and in giving to others through volunteering, volunteers have the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping others, hence enhancing the quality of their own lives at the same time.  

Finally, contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations, this might sound lofty and out of reach but our lives tend to be made up of many small actions and experiences that combine to make the whole. What kind of life do we ultimately want to lead? If it’s one where serving others has a place, then this can contribute to realizing our dreams and what we aspire to be.

I think it’s true to say, therefore, that volunteering can be a form of personal growth. So if you want some of the things that go with this – improvement of awareness and identity, to build human capital and improve your employability, enhance your quality of life, build talent and potential and realise your dreams and aspirations, hence a personal growth opportunity – please consider volunteer befriending with Volunteer Link.

Our next Volunteers Induction training courses will take place on Wednesday 16th January 2019. Email volunteering@volunteerlink.org.uk for more information.

Why spend time Volunteering with all the other things there are to do?

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These days we have more choice than ever about how we spend our leisure time. There seem to be many more leisure activities available than there were a generation ago. For example the internet now tells us about social events happening near where we live and there are so many more pastimes than there used to be. As I google what I could do in London this evening, Enigma quests and flight simulator experience are just two of the suggestions!  Also, short breaks travelling abroad are easier and cheaper than they used to be. Not to mention the varied hobbies that people have these days, everything from tracking your family ancestry to high risk pursuits such as skydiving.

Yet our 92 volunteers are living proof that they, at least, still find time to fit a couple of hours of volunteering into their lives each week despite the temptation of other activities. Maybe this is because through their volunteering with Volunteer Link they are connecting with another person directly and they can see first hand that they are making a huge positive difference to the life of that person. Other activities just don’t seem so satisfying. Of course our volunteers fit other activities in as well but they ensure that they make time for their volunteering.

These are exciting times for Volunteer Link as we have recently started a new project called Linked Minds which provides befrienders for people who have mental health problems. We also have a project to support people who have early and mid dementia. So including our regular Volunteer Befriender role, we now have 3 volunteer roles for you to choose from.If you would like to prioritise giving your time to someone who is lonely or isolated please email me at volunteering@volunteerlink.org.uk and it would be great to have you on board. We have new Volunteer Induction training courses coming up in November. Hope to see you there!

The Happiness Effect of Volunteering

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Our volunteers often say how much they enjoy their volunteering and that they get a lot from their weekly visits, but did you know that it’s official that people who volunteer are happier than those who don’t?

Many studies have demonstrated that volunteering kindles happiness. When researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness in a large group of American adults, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were, according to a study in Social Science and Medicine. Compared with people who never volunteered, the odds of being “very happy” rose 7% among those who volunteer monthly and 12% for people who volunteer every two to four weeks.

Having good and positive relationships is another key source of happiness for most people and one of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to commit to a shared activity together. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area. It strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighbourhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities.

Volunteering can also boost your social skills which can help you to interact more effectively with others, again potentially increasing your happiness. While some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests. Once you have momentum, it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts.

It’s official, therefore, people who volunteer are happier than those that don’t.

We are taking a break from volunteer induction training over the Summer but have training courses coming up in September and October. Email us now if you would like to find out more at volunteering@volunteerlink.org.uk. It’s time to get happy!

 

Volunteers Week Celebrations

 

Volunteers Week Celebration 2018

Early in June we celebrated Volunteers Week and to mark the occasion we organised a get together with food and drink in a local pub to thank those who have volunteered with us over the last year.  The event was well attended and enjoyed by all. Many of our volunteers have been with us for a number of years and some have joined us more recently.

One of our volunteers who has been with us for a while told me about some of the benefits she experiences from her volunteering. She said

The elderly ladies I have visited all came to the Ealing area from other countries, and I have found that our conversations have given me a fascinating insight into their past experiences which I really appreciate. I would never have learned about these things had I not met them through my VLS visiting.    Sue

Another volunteer who joined us about six months ago said the following about his volunteering

The 95-year-old gentleman I visit is a quip-a-minute marvel, and has a wealth of humorous anecdotes dating back to his army-service years in North Africa and Italy. I’m so fortunate to have him as my befriendee and to have the unparalleled support of the superb Volunteer Link team.   Richard

These words are from just two of our volunteers saying some of the things that they get from their volunteering, and there is so much more! Is befriending a lonely and isolated person in their home through Volunteer Link, something you might consider? Our next available training courses will be in September and October. Please let me know if you would like to apply to join us. Ring Bridget on 020-8434-3635 or email at volunteering@volunteerlink.org.uk