Find out about the people behind Royal Voluntary Service in our series of guest stories from our volunteers, staff and partners.
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.
Posted by at 00:00
Tuesday, 12 February 2019.