What we're saying
Find out about the people behind Royal Voluntary Service in our series of guest stories from our volunteers, staff and partners.
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Mary, who will be 80 on her next birthday, has volunteered for Royal Voluntary Service for an incredible 38 years. On top of her decades of dedication in a range of Royal Voluntary Service roles, Mary has decided to leave a gift in her Will to Royal Voluntary Service. For Mary, it’s a way of giving – like her volunteering – that just feels right for her.
“Volunteering has been like a second career for me. I was a chemistry teacher, but always part-time while I brought up my children. We relocated to Scotland in 1984 and I didn’t know a soul. The local office was manned by volunteers. It was wonderful working in such a congenial team, feeling you were doing something useful and helpful. We could see the results of what we were doing, helping people in the community.”
After working directly with older people in Midlothian, Mary became a training manager for Scotland – which suited her perfectly. “It was a combination of everything I’d learned as a teacher and a volunteer. I enjoyed passing on what I knew and being part of the community. It’s been stimulating personally, while all the time the objectives have been to help people in the community. It’s a two-way process – it helps the volunteers and the people they support. People appreciate what you do.”
Mary claims her loyalty is not unusual. “Tons of people are the same. That’s what makes it such a special organisation. But people are modest and just get on with it – we don’t like saying we’re wonderful! That wartime spirit is still there.
“You can find Royal Voluntary Service wherever you are. When I moved to Wales 11 years ago, I knew someone in the area who said ‘Let me know the minute you get here’ – and she put me in touch with the local Royal Voluntary Service.”
The ethos of the charity resonates with Mary. “The words of Royal Voluntary Service’s founder, Lady Reading, sums it up for me: Service before Self”.
Those words are on the long service medal that Mary cherishes, together with ivy for steadfastness and rosemary for remembrance. “It was the first non-military medal to be awarded that was approved by the Queen,” Mary explains.
Her years of commitment have earned her an extra bar on her medal’s ribbon and another one will join it in a few years’ time. Mary is also proud that she was asked to carry a wreath at Royal Voluntary Service’s 75th Anniversary service at St Paul’s, where she wore 1940s uniform.
Leaving a legacy
Mary made a Will because she says, “It’s a common sense thing to do, however old you are – and it would be foolish not to make one at my age!
“There will be fewer and fewer younger people to look after the older ones as life expectancy goes up – so that motivated me to give to a charity that helps older people. It will be a big problem for the country – but it’s a hidden one. There are many people who don’t get out of their houses unless we take them. They go to lunch clubs and social clubs for the company. And the hospital shops and tea bars are valuable too – people appreciate them and the money generated goes back into the hospital.”
Mary’s decision to remember Royal Voluntary Service in her Will is fully supported by her husband and children. As for her, she says Royal Voluntary Service “ticks all the boxes. I’ve had a connection with Royal Voluntary Service over the years. It’s the charity I support.”
And Mary has no plans to give up her involvement with the charity anytime soon. “I’m slower than I was, but I’m still mobile. As long as we can keep fit, we older people can still do our bit!”
To find out more about legacy giving for Royal Voluntary Service, please visit here. Lots of information about how you can help and you'll find two information leaflets to download.
Meet Joyce, 78, and volunteer Laura, 20, who live in Leicestershire. Laura started helping Joyce after she was in hospital following a fall.
“I tripped and fell and broke my shoulder. It was right on the street and everyone was watching, which I found embarrassing. It’s still quite painful even now but it’s getting much better, which is a relief.
“Laura came to see me when I was back at home after hospital. She’s been so helpful in supporting me with the things I need. It’s so nice of her to take time out of her busy life to help me. I was having real trouble with getting shopping, just to get food for the week, and Laura has taken me to the local shops to help me get what I need.
“I don’t have any family or many friends, just one friend from within my housing complex. This means I rarely see people, and I don’t have any support from people for times like this when I need it.
“It’s really nice to be able to see Laura every week. Just having a cup of tea and a chat with someone regularly is a really positive addition to the week. It’s just a simple thing but it helps to build your self–esteem and confidence.
Just going out for a walk is nice as you get a change of scenery. I spend a lot of time in my flat so it’s nice to get out sometimes.
“I feel more confident being able to perform the basic tasks that I took for granted before, like getting food out of a cupboard, or getting groceries. If I hadn’t been for Laura I would have had to lean on social services, as there was a period of time when I just wasn’t able to be independent and just didn’t feel like I could be on my own.”
"The first thing that struck me about Joyce was her isolation; she is the only person I know who doesn’t have the support of family. She doesn’t have any relatives, so she really has very little contact with people.
“She’s been having a lot of difficulties with her shoulder after her accident and it’s meant she just hasn’t been able to get out and about. Getting food shopping is something everyone needs to do, but she just wasn’t able to do it on her own.
“Leaving hospital would work fine for people who have a partner, family, or close friends nearby, but for people like Joyce who don’t have this support, volunteers like myself and those at Royal Voluntary Service help provide the practical and emotional support needed for when older people leave hospital. Joyce is now more confident and independent, and while there is definitely still progress to be made, I think she’s in a better place now.
“I joined Royal Voluntary Service while at University and realised I was at a time in my life when I had more free time - I would encourage anyone in a similar situation to do the same. Volunteering with Joyce takes very little time out of my life, and it’s a lovely feeling to know you are helping to look after someone who is more vulnerable than yourself.”
Laura and Joyce were matched through our Home from Hospital service, which helps vulnerable people to safely return home after a stay in hospital. To find out more about our Home from Hospital service, see here
or take a look at volunteering roles here.
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Tuesday, 12 February 2019.
There are lots of ways that people choose to support Royal Voluntary Service, one of the most valuable, is through a legacy
. Our long-serving volunteer Alice Cleland has decided to do just that: legacy a gift in her Will to Royal Voluntary Service.
The gift of time
Alice has been volunteering with Royal Voluntary Service since 1977.
When she first joined the charity, Alice was recruited for the Emergency Team and later managed the Emergency Service in Wiltshire. Over the next 20 years she was involved in a variety of roles. During the Gulf War, Alice and her colleagues were trained to deliver messages from the front-line to the families of soldiers.
Since the early 90’s, Alice has played a fundamental role in the running and upkeep of Royal Voluntary Service’s archive. With over 30,000 articles, keepsakes and uniforms the archive is home to the charity’s rich heritage. Working alongside our staff, Alice has conducted many roles at the archive; contributing towards the production of the archive newsletter (The Heritage Bulletin) and encouraging volunteers to donate their historic documents to the archive.
Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist, commented “Alice founded an Archive Support Group to bring people together who could each play a fundamental role in supporting the archive for many years. Our archive is all about volunteering. It’s vitally important to our volunteers that they preserve their own legacies. Volunteers are invaluable; if we don’t know the answer to a question, volunteers like Alice can always help!”
Alice told us why she has decided to support us in this way;
“I feel very comfortable talking about legacies and I think people talk about it a lot more these days.
My generation is very much of the opinion that we are not going to sacrifice everything for the sake of our children – we have worked hard and will make our own choices on what happens to any money that is left. So, we consider what else we might do with money and that includes considering leaving a gift to a charity. Having volunteered for Royal Voluntary Service most of my life, the choice of which charity was an easy one for me.
I have talked more about legacies with my Royal Voluntary Service friends since another friend left a legacy in her Will, and it made us think about our own options.
I have had such a lovely time volunteering for Royal Voluntary Service and it has given me the chance to achieve things I wouldn't have believed I could.
I think my family are proud of me – my achievements are much more important to them than my money! They were very proud when I got my CBE and took me to a very special lunch to celebrate. When I won the Royal Voluntary Service Local Hero award, my 4 year old grandson rang me up and said "Well done, Granny.”
Mostly I think people feel they must pass on everything to their children. I believe that it’s possible to look after your family and also leave a legacy, which is what I have planned to do.
I won’t be specifying what Royal Voluntary Service should allocate my legacy to – in terms of the money going to a particular project or area – as I think it is kinder not to. That way it can be used for the most important cause at the time and I trust that the right decisions will be made.
To find out more about legacy giving for Royal Voluntary Service, please visit here.
Lots of information about how you can help and you'll find two information leaflets to download.
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Wednesday, 09 January 2019.
66 year old former nurse, Tricia Hegde has been running Royal Voluntary Service’s Mill End Lunch Club in Rickmansworth for nine years. The club is open five days a week and provides a lifeline to older people in the community – offering tasty home cooked food and all important company.
“I first became involved in the lunch club when I helped a friend who was volunteering with Royal Voluntary Service and they were short staffed. My friend just needed a hand and so of course I was happy to help. That was nine years ago now, I ended up staying because I could see how amazing the service was and now I’m running the show.
"The lunch club is open five days a week, and I will cook once a week, for around 20 diners who all come from the local area. I will always make a couple of extra meals just in case a few others turn up. I come in around 9am and lunch is served at 12.30pm, so that gives us a chance to do all the prep and cook and squeeze in a quick coffee break before everyone arrives
"My role also involves recruiting and managing volunteers, we have around 30 currently. I will also order the food and manage the clubs finances. Generally I spend six hours per week on club business, but I always ensure that I have Wednesday’s off as this is the day I spend with my grandchildren.
"I’ve never cooked professionally, but we have a rota of dishes that we make and which our diners really enjoy, such as shepherd’s pie, lasagne and casseroles. You get to know who’s coming for lunch, so I always try to make sure I make things those people like.
"People come here to have a nice lunch but get so much more as they make friends, and some have even found new partners, which is just lovely. Coming to our lunch club may be the only time a member will eat with other people or have a warm cooked meal, so it is important. It’s lovely to feed people and provide a place for them to get together. It’s a special place to be.
"If there is not a lunch club in your area, then it would be amazing to set one up, or if not a different sort of social club or activity. You can’t underestimate the social impact that it has and it’s so rewarding for the volunteers too. And volunteering is a great way to stay active and keep busy, I’m made so many new friends along the way."
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Sunday, 09 December 2018.
Meet Linda who is part of ‘Better Bretton’ – a group of residents who work together to improve local lives and bring the community together in Peterborough. The project is in its third year, thanks to funding from People’s Health Trust.
I’m part of the Older People’s Network who organise and lead activities for people in my area. We meet every couple of months to plan and share information. We have been able to get small grants to help us to do things we haven’t tried before like a trip to seaside.
Eighteen months ago, I was hardly walking. To be honest when I first went along to the social events, I was sceptical. I thought we’d have trouble getting people to come to things we tried to organise but I’m so happy now to have interesting things to do. I’ve met so many people and I’m moving about much more.
The group has made a difference to the local community. People are coming out more. There’s so much to do with different social groups mixing with each other. Last week, we had a coffee morning, ukulele club, a social club fete, bingo and a community celebration event. This week, we’re taking a bus trip and running our own fun day. It’s made me more confident too – I am happier to put my point of view across, even if it’s different to someone else’s. I now have a great social network and enjoy being so busy!
We’re mixing with other housing schemes and have met others who want to attend our activities; everything seems to grow from there. The range of activities we put on has increased from coffee mornings and crafts to tai chi and laughing yoga. Things take time; people used to complain that no one turned up but now they joke that there’s too many people!
There’s a lot of fun and satisfaction gained from getting people together. It’s great to have supportive people around you and lots of different activities to try. I’m amazed to see what’s happened in the last 18 months and what I’ve personally achieved.
Geraldine, 61, attends some of the events that Linda organises.
I come along about four times a week. I do tai chi, bingo, crafts, chair based exercises and bus trips. I’ve made friends and gained so much companionship through the activities. I have been nominated to be our resident representative to the housing association and, thanks to my confidence increasing, I am planning on doing my master’s degree in Environmental Science this year.
I feel physically better now that I’m a part of something. My last check-up with the doctor showed that my blood pressure is back to normal levels – this has never happened before! I feel much more relaxed and I have a better social circle as well as being more active.
Better Bretton is a community group formed as part of the Local People Project in Peterborough, funded by People’s Health Trust. Royal Voluntary Service is supporting Local People Projects
in six communities in England and Scotland. Residents in these communities are working together to set up activities, organise events and influence what goes on locally to make life better for older people.
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Saturday, 01 December 2018.
Meet Pat, 73, and Vera, 71, who are regulars at their nearest Local People project in Arbroath, Scotland. The pair have been friends for a number of years and got involved with the project after a visit from Grant, local Royal Voluntary Service Engagement Worker.
"Pat and I go to three types of social events organised by the group. ‘Meet & Eat’ is a dinner club with entertainment, ‘Fish, Film & Friends’ where we enjoy a fish supper with a film and the superb coach trips.
"Through the project, I’ve met people who I haven’t seen in years and made new friends. It’s been good to see people come out of themselves through the things that are organised. Some people are now trying things and going to things that they haven’t tried in years.
"The project has had a very positive effect on me and I can see the difference it makes to others. It’s great to see some of my neighbours get out and go to things. It has been great not only for me, but for the local community. It’s nice to see people doing things again and helping each other.
"I’ve been going every month for about 7 months now and it’s been great to get to know a lot more people. I know more people when I go out; I talk to people more and have a bigger circle of friends. At the club, I like to try new foods and be able to try things I haven’t had before or made for myself for ages.
"I don’t think I’m old but I can see a big change in many that I’ve met through the project. It’s good to see people wanting to do things again, helping each other and rebuilding confidence that many have lost. They say trying new things is good for you and I like how this project allows me to do things that I wouldn’t have normally done.
"I feel that I have more things to look forward to now and feel able to talk more openly a bit more as well. I would encourage people to come along and see what happens."
Grant, the local Royal Voluntary Service Community Engagement Worker, has been working with residents on this project for around 2 years.
“In the last year, things have really taken off. Local people have been involved in everything from gardening and pottery classes to tai chi and coach trips. It’s been great for the area and we’ve seen a marked increase in collaboration between people. It’s great to see friendships built or rekindled.
“The project gives people choice and the opportunity to improve at their own pace without having to admit that they are isolated, lonely or afraid. It’s great to encourage things to develop as locals want, solving the issues that the community sees as important and enabling them to create their own solutions.”
The Local People project in Arbroath, Angus is one of six Local People Projects run by Royal Voluntary Service thanks to funding from the People's Health Trust
. Find out more about how we are working with local people to help them tackle the issues facing older people in their communities.
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Wednesday, 14 November 2018.
Meet Pam who is 69 and volunteers in her local community in Biddulph, Staffordshire. Pam is a member of the steering group in our Local People’s Project, funded by People’s Health Trust. The steering group work with the community to make life better for older people.
“I’ve been volunteering as a steering group member for around 18 months. We meet to talk about local issues and how best to combat them through local projects. Through the project, I’m involved in a ‘Meet and Eat’ group where older people get together every two weeks to socialise and dine together with entertainment.
“I’d lived in the area for around six years before I started volunteering but I hadn’t really connected with new people. Since joining the group, I’ve met lots of new people who have become a real support network for me. Members of the group have joined other new projects and have made new friends as a result.
“It’s been great to see how everyone in the group has changed. We’ve all gained confidence and honed our decision making skills. Our contributions feel so worthwhile and valued – we make a visible difference.
“The Local People’s Project has had a positive impact on my life. I now feel a sense of belonging in my local area. It’s given me a real sense of purpose and I now feel I have a voice within the community. I would emphatically recommend getting involved!”
Ross Podyma is Pam’s local Royal Voluntary Service Community Engagement Worker. His role involves talking to individuals and groups in the community to find out what the issues are for older people locally and their ideas to address these issues. He then supports the steering group to make some of these ideas happen.
“Pam’s community have been contributing to their local steering group and the projects that stem from the group’s decisions for the last two and half years. They decide how money from the People’s Health Trust is spent to improve lives and overall wellbeing in their area.
“The project brings people together to improve the understanding of the issues faced by local people. It’s an opportunity to express the problems that they face locally. Group members have gained confidence and unified to channel their efforts. The group is independent from other local groups, which allows members to be vocal and honest about their opinions. This has allowed member’s personalities to shine through; natural leaders, philosophers, animators and listeners, who make up the groups dynamic to bring about a positive change for the future.”
The Local People project in Biddulph is funded by the People's Health Trust
, an independent charity addressing health inequalities across Great Britain. Fifty-one Health Lottery lotteries raise money that go towards grants that make projects like these possible. Royal Voluntary Service works on six Local People's Projects
that are funded through People’s Health Trust’s Local People Programme. These projects take a neighbourhood approach, engaging with local people and enabling them to address wider issues in their communities through collective action.
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Tuesday, 09 October 2018.
Lin and Alan Keeling have been part of the ‘You Me and Us’ project for over a year. You, Me and Us is one of our Local People projects, funded by People’s Health Trust, which works with local communities to improve the lives of older residents. Lin and Alan help organise the fortnightly Ketley Coffee Club and many other groups and activities. As carers themselves, it has given the couple another focus, a social community of friends and added “happiness and hope” to their lives.
“We found out about the project when we attended a group called Ketley Good Companions in Telford. The club leader Barbara Evans informed the group about the new project called ‘You Me and Us’, which is part of the Local People’s Project.We put our hands up straight away.
“We felt that we wanted to give something back to our community and thought that this was an ideal opportunity. It sounded really interesting and like a new adventure for us.
“We help with the organising and running of the Ketley Coffee Club which has about 25 people attending every fortnight.
“Although we are closely involved with the coffee club, we also support other clubs and activities through the steering group as the project covers three areas. These have ranged from social dining, afternoon teas and events, chair exercise groups and all kinds of things.
“We are carers and this project has given us something to look forward to and another focus. It’s brought us back to the land of the living.
“One man who has recently lost his wife has just started coming, before then his wife came. He has lived in the area for two years and didn’t know anyone and now he has new friends and people to talk to.
Alan, who is the volunteer Treasurer for the steering group,says he really enjoys doing the accounts “as it gives him a sense of purpose and value, whilst keeping his brain active”.
When asked what they would say to someone thinking of doing something similar in their community, the pair said “Go for it!”
Alex Lloyd, Community Engagement Worker in Telford commented “There is a real sense of people in the area beginning to work together, I love it!”
The Local People project in Telford is one of six Local People Projects
run by Royal Voluntary Service thanks to funding from the People's Health Trust
. It makes grants using money raised by 51 society lotteries through The Health Lottery. These projects take a neighbourhood approach, engaging with local people and enabling them to address wider issues in their communities through collective action.
Find out more about how we are working with local people to help them tackle the issues facing older people in their communities.
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Sunday, 23 September 2018.
Meet Val who loves her local People’s Health Trust funded art group in Norfolk. She has been attending for over a year and has made connections in her community that she didn’t have before.
“I just love going to the Art and Wellbeing group on a Monday. You walk in and it’s warm and comfortable with a feeling of community.
“I’ve met some old faces – some of whom I’ve worked with in the past and haven’t seen for years. I’ve also made new friends and we all support each other through sad times, of which we’ve had a few recently. It’s a real support network. Now, if I bump into people at the shops, I stop and chat whereas I wouldn’t have before. I really feel like I know people now.
“I find the group helps to keep my mind active. It’s very easy as you get older to sit on your backside and do nothing but somethings you need to get out there and try things. I’d encourage others to give it a go! The group gives me a sense of belonging and helps with my confidence.
“I suffer with anxiety and going along on a Monday gives me a reason to go out and I thoroughly enjoy it. It’s not just the art, it’s the wellbeing side too. Some people come along just for that! We’ve even had sing-songs around the table.
“My favourite thing is collaging; it’s a great way to express yourself. I am a very arty crafty person; I used to help out at school. I’d spend ages doing arty things with the children and loved it so much. Now I like to see what others in the group are doing and listen to their ideas.
“I am onto my second sketchbook now and I work on them at home too. It used to be that if I couldn’t get out to work in my garden, I used to just sit there and twiddle my thumbs. Now I get on with my arts and crafts journals.
“Through the group, I see more people and I feel so much better about myself!”
The Local People project is funded by the People's Health Trust
, an independent charity addressing health inequalities across Great Britain. It makes grants using money raised by 51 society lotteries through The Health Lottery. Since 2015, Royal Voluntary Service has been working on six Local People's Projects
, funded through People’s Health Trust’s Local People Programme. These projects take a neighbourhood approach, engaging with local people and enabling them to address wider issues in their communities through collective action.
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Tuesday, 11 September 2018.
Meet Margaret who is 72 and volunteers in her local community in Biddulph, Staffordshire. Margaret volunteers on her local Steering Group to voice local issues and come up with solutions. As a result, she volunteers at a social club, which she helped to set up.
“I heard about my local Steering Group after a project member visited my care home. I’d recently retired and wanted to get involved in local activities. That was two years ago now. I helped to start my local ‘Meet and Eat’ group, which I still volunteer at.
“At ‘Meet and Eat’, about twenty of us get together to enjoy food and entertainment together. I’ve met new people, made new friends and have had lots of fun!
“I’ve had so many opportunities through my volunteering. I’ve organised and led an intergenerational project where our group and a local youth group took it in turns to cook a meal for each other. I go to my local Fit For Friday, where an instructor tailors fun exercise to suit our abilities. I cannot say what I enjoyed the most; I’ve enjoyed it all!
“The People’s Project has all made a very positive difference to my life. Without it, I would be isolated at home. I hope I have inspired other to do the same; it’s great!”
Ross Podyma is Margaret’s local Royal Voluntary Service Community Engagement Worker.
“Margaret’s group has given local people a voice. For the first time, they feel less invisible. Their energy levels and appetite to involve themselves in activities or research has brought them into contact with new people and new experiences. Steering group members were being asked of their opinion, something that didn’t happen much before. This project has provided members with a feeling of self-worth and belonging with something as simple as enabling people to connect with each other. Friendships have blossomed too.”
The Local People project in Biddulph is one of six Local People Projects run by Royal Voluntary Service thanks to funding from the People's Health Trust
. Find out more about how we are working with local people
to help them tackle the issues facing older people in their communities.
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Thursday, 02 August 2018.