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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.

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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.