We have a special volunteer in our scheme who despite personal difficulties manages to make a huge contribution. When she was 8 months pregnant she had a brain haemorrhage. She survived against the odds but had to relearn many tasks including speaking and counting. She previously worked at a bank and had studied psychology and sociology at college. After this event she had to rethink her plans as returning to her previous employment was not possible. Some days she can be fine and feel well enough to be out much of the day, but at other times she becomes very tired and needs to rest at home.
When she got in touch about volunteering she was keen to use the skills that she felt that she had in a constructive way to give more meaning to her life. With her son at school, she had time during the day, but was not well enough consistently to work. Volunteering, she felt, would give purpose to the day and she felt that she had a lot to give – understanding the difficulties that could beset families out of the blue.
She went ahead with the preparation course and has since supported five families. She has given fantastic support to families who have suffered depression. She is a superb listener, has a wonderful calm manner and is a great confidence builder.
Last year she supported a family with a three year old whose mother was dying of cancer. At the close of support, his father wrote, “towards the end of my wife’s life she struggled to cope with our son. I can honestly say that our volunteer became a very close friend in the short time she visited us.”
For the last two years she been visiting two families a week and has also been helping at our Family Group, a task that she has enjoyed. She welcomes new families to the group, introduces children to activities they might not have participated in before, helps setting out toys and making drinks.
Volunteering has provided a sense that she can put something back into the community and that she has a valuable role to play. Her illness means that she tires really easily and frequently has periods where she has to collapse in bed for the afternoon. She would find it extremely difficult to work, but volunteering with the scheme allows her some measure of flexibility.
“Our volunteer’s story illustrates how valuable volunteering can be for those who have physical disabilities or long term health problems. Whilst the organiser concerned has to be very careful in matching such volunteers, and families visited need to be aware of the situation, volunteers in this position have much to give and without fail, every family this volunteer has visited has talked in glowing terms about what she has brought to their situation – “she’s wonderful” is the most common adjective that comes to mind.”