Volunteering is something I have been meaning to do for a long time. It took me a while to get started because I wasn’t sure what type of volunteering I wanted to do, all I knew was that I wanted it to be something I was passionate about and that I could really excel in. I think that volunteering should make a real impact on those who you volunteer for, which in turn will benefits you because you have had a positive influence on someone or something.
I started volunteering because I had some free time in my final year of university and wanted to do something productive with it. Whilst I could have got a job, I would much rather commit to something that will have a real impact on someones life, rather than just my own. I had recently just lost both of my grandparents too, after they both battled dementia for several years. I knew the difference that a visit to them made and so for me it was a no-brainer. Mat also volunteers for the same service and he absolutely loves it, he helps out his friend with anything he needs and they can talk for hours!
I volunteer for AGE UK Leeds, AGE UK is the main charity and then towns and cities will often have their own AGE UK branch. AGE UK run a variety of things to get involved in, I’ll leave a link to their opportunities down below! I am part of the befriending scheme, where I visit an elderly member of the community each week, its the same person each week and you build a friendship together and talk about anything and everything!
After a short interview they will pair you up with an elderly member of the community and they will try and match you with someone that you share something(s) in common with, which makes it that little bit easier to have things to talk about. They will also try and match you with someone who lives in the same city or town, and they cover your travel expenses which means that if you have to drive or bus there then this cost will be covered, even more reason to join!
I visit my friend for any time between an hour to two hours, you both agree on a time and a day within the week that suits you both, but this can change weekly depending on their commitments. It’s such a simple thing that we do all the time, sitting down with a cup of tea and just talking with someone, but its often something that the elderly people part of this service don’t get to do very often. They’re people over the age of 75 who live alone, and often who have minimal contact from others, which can be a really isolating life.
Age UK created this video that I think sums up the reality for thousands of elderly people, I’ve popped it in down below if you want to give it a watch, it’s only a minute long.
It’s an upsetting but truthful reality for many, but their reality can be made that bit better by someone like you by giving them an hour of your time, nothing really. I know that when I go and visit my friend, I make such a difference to her day and that she genuinely looks forward to having me come to see her, and that’s such a rewarding feeling. We have so much to learn from the older generation and I am so glad I am a part of it, I only wish I’d started sooner. We have a real friendship now and we have found lots of things in common, just because were of different ages does not mean that we’re entirely different people.
The other week I was having a really bad day, but it was a Wednesday, the day I visit my friend. I was worried that because I wasn’t in the best mood, that this would negatively affect my visit, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. As soon as my friend opened the door I instantly felt better, we had an amazing chat for about an hour and a half and I left feeling so positive and great, as well as learning lots more about her and her interesting life. Not only this but I knew that I had made a difference to her week and happiness, which makes you feel even better! I don’t think theres much else more rewarding than making others truly happy.
I hope that if any of you reading who were considering volunteering, that this may have had an impact on your decision, I honestly cannot recommend it enough. It just takes an hour of your time, nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it has such a massive impact on someone else’s life. If you have any questions at all then feel free to just message me! I’d literally love to help or tell you more about it and my experience with the AgeUK befriending service. This type of volunteering might not be for you so I’ve put in a link to AgeUK’s website that lists all the different ways you can make a difference to an elderly persons life!
P.S. sorry if not mentioning my friends name, for safety reasons I obviously can’t, but take my word for it that she is an absolutely wonderful lady.
Until next time,