What we're saying

Royal Voluntary Service blog
Find out about the people behind Royal Voluntary Service in our series of guest stories from our volunteers, staff and partners.

Showing 1-10 results

Cooking up a storm


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."

Posted by at 00:00 Sunday, 09 December 2018.

“I’m amazed to see what we’ve achieved!”

Linda and Geraldine

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.

Posted by at 00:00 Saturday, 01 December 2018.

“It’s good to see others rebuilding the lost confidence”

Pat and Vera

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.

Vera, 71

"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."

Pat, 73

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.

Posted by at 00:00 Wednesday, 14 November 2018.

“I would emphatically recommend getting involved”


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.

Posted by at 00:00 Tuesday, 09 October 2018.

“The atmosphere is very welcoming and full of friendship, we love it!”

Alan and Lin

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.

Posted by at 00:00 Sunday, 23 September 2018.

“I see more people and I feel so much better about myself!”

Val and her friend Julie

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.

Posted by at 00:00 Tuesday, 11 September 2018.

“I’ve made new friends and have had lots of fun!”


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.

Posted by at 00:00 Thursday, 02 August 2018.

Labels: volunteering,

“The group has made a real difference to my life”

Julie and Val

Julie likes to get creative at our art group in Thetford, Norfolk. The group is part of our Local People Project, funded by People’s Health Trust. She tells us why the group is so important to her wellbeing and why Mondays are a good day for her since she joined.

“I’ve been coming to the Arts and Wellbeing Group for around a year now. We meet every Monday and I really look forward to it! The group is so friendly. Every week you are greeted by smiling faces and are made to feel so welcome.

“It’s so much more than an art group; we natter, laugh and chat about anything and everything. You name it, we’ve done it! From collage to colouring, glass painting to Christmas decoration making. I have taken some of my projects home with me and I get a real sense of pride and ownership from the work I’m doing.

“I am thrilled that my son has seen some of my work. He knows how much I am loving my crafting. He has even asked me to design and make cards for his wedding!

“I am currently enjoying working on my journal, which is all about my life. I am finding it really interesting to research where I was born and the area I came from. Others in the group have inspired me to delve into my roots; this is something I’d never considered doing before but I find truly fascinating. It keeps my mind active and awakens memories that have been asleep for years.

“The group has made a real difference to my life. Some weekends, I don’t get to see anybody at all and it does get very lonely. But then I remember I have arts group on Monday morning and I get so excited and pack my bag to get ready. I really look forward to seeing everyone. I’ve made new friends and connections through the group. I am quite a reserved person but within the group, I can feel my confidence building. I can speak up and make suggestions that others will listen to and value.

“I also find myself thinking of others in the group and ways to help them. I save magazine cuttings and photos that I find for my classmates, knowing that they will appreciate and use them. I feel that they have been pleased with my thoughtfulness and that makes me happy.”

Thanks to funding from 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.

Posted by at 00:00 Thursday, 19 July 2018.

Labels: volunteering,

70 years of supporting the NHS

Catherine Johnstone CBE"As relevant today as it ever has been - Royal Voluntary Service looks back at 70 years of volunteering in the NHS." Catherine Johnstone CBE, Chief Executive Royal Voluntary Service

Happy 70th Birthday to the National Health Service from all at Royal Voluntary Service.

Royal Voluntary Service, or Women’s Voluntary Service as we were then known, was already 10 years old when Bevan’s National Health Service was born in 1948. By that time our volunteers had already become a familiar and vital presence in hospitals - assisting with preparations for war, filling staff shortages for non-medical jobs and helping during emergencies.

In the post war era, despite staff returning to their posts, our army of dedicated volunteers still found their services in high demand. Our focus shifted to assisting with the aims of the NHS and enabling it to run services it would not be able to without voluntary support. Members took on roles including reception work; canteens; trolley shops; and special campaigns.

In 1946-48, the now iconic, WVS trolley shops and shopping services landed on wards and quickly became a familiar and welcome sight in hospitals across Britain. Volunteers would do rounds twice weekly, selling popular items including biscuits, tobacco and cigarettes, sweets and fruit. We also established a number of hospital canteens to provide refreshments, a place for people to take a break and bring comfort to those waiting for appointments.

All of the profits enabled Royal Voluntary Service to support older people in their local community or were gifted back to the hospital to spend on equipment or services.

Royal Voluntary Service volunteers were also regularly called upon to help with national health campaigns. For instance, our volunteers would organise blood donation sessions and provide tea and biscuits to donors. They were also involved in running handicraft workshops; writing letters; entertaining; escorting on journeys and Darby and Joan Clubs for long-stay patients.

In 2018, we are extremely proud to still be part of daily life in the NHS. It is an incredible institution that sits right at the heart of Civic Society and the continued presence of thousands of our volunteers is as critical and relevant as it ever has been.

We have more than 230 volunteer-run shops, cafés and trolley services that provide tea and company to patients, hospital staff and visitors and today we are leading the charge on healthy eating and drinking in hospitals.

Our NHS volunteers are also playing a vital role in reducing readmissions and improving patient experience. Volunteers provide on ward support to help older patients regain their cognitive and physical strength, and through our Home from Hospital service, we support people to recover and build confidence after being discharged from hospital.

In our 80th year, Royal Voluntary Service is continuing to prioritise support for the NHS and via a new strategic partnership with Helpforce, we will be aiming to scale up voluntary service in the NHS over the next 5 years. Combining HelpForce’s innovation with our experience, means we can explore and identify new ways volunteers can ease some of the pressures faced by our health care system.

It is an absolute honour to have been supporting the NHS from its origins and as we wish it a very happy birthday, we also want to thank all our wonderful volunteers past and present. These ordinary men and women give freely of their time to do the simple things that make a big difference.

The gift of voluntary service is an amazing way we can all give something back and thank the NHS and all those who work within it. Find out more about local volunteering opportunities in the NHS, or to make a donation to support our work.

Posted by Catherine Johnstone CBE, CEO Royal Voluntary Service at 09:00 Thursday, 05 July 2018.

Our biggest commitment yet to supporting those living with dementia

Dr Allison Smith Dementia is becoming increasingly prevalent in our society, with more and more people affected each year. As an organisation that supports older people to stay healthy and happy, and which helps the NHS, Royal Voluntary Service has a duty to provide the best possible support to enable all older adults to live well whatever their condition.

That’s why this year - our 80th anniversary year - we are making our biggest commitment yet to supporting those living with dementia. We’re doing this by launching a series of new dementia training videos for our staff and 20,000 volunteers who deliver a range of services and social activities in hospital, at home and in the community.

Royal Voluntary Service staff and volunteers already receive thorough and rigorous training, but to deepen our knowledge and critical understanding of dementia, we’ve joined forces with an award-winning and truly inspirational charity, Dementia Adventure. Dementia Adventure is a forward-thinking, innovative organisation that helps people live well with dementia by thinking differently about the condition and connecting them to the outdoors and their community.

Thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we’ve worked together to develop a set of inspirational video tutorials that will equip our staff and volunteers with practical, specialist skills to help those with dementia to live well and get the most out of our services and activities. The videos uniquely include the voices and experiences of those living with dementia.

We know that anxiety and fear of stigma mean that people with dementia sometimes disengage from social activities and their local community. By equipping our staff and volunteers with rich knowledge about ‘what dementia is’, ‘what it is like to live with dementia’ and ‘how we can better communicate with those living with dementia to improve their wellbeing’, we hope that more people with dementia will feel confident and comfortable interacting with Royal Voluntary Service – for instance, by coming along to a local social event or club or to return to an activity or hobby that they enjoyed prior to diagnosis. At the same time, commissioners of hospital, social care or community services can be assured that we have an effective combination of practical and communication skills to support those living with dementia to live well.

There are many misperceptions and myths about dementia, the greatest being that people with dementia are unable to participate fully in life, including enjoying an active social life. We don’t subscribe to that and our highly trained staff and volunteers will be working hard to break down those barriers.

Posted by Dr Allison Smith, Head of Strategy and Development at 13:00 Wednesday, 27 June 2018.

Labels: Dementia