It’s Volunteers Week and we’re celebrating with tea parties and events all over the country. To kick start the week, meet Avril who lives in Haddington and volunteers for the Good Neighbours service in East Lothian, Scotland.
“I’ve been volunteering with Royal Voluntary Service for two years and am a companion for two older ladies who live near me as well as helping out with transport to help get people out and about.
“I visit both ladies every week for a chat; we get on so well. One lady is virtually housebound so my visits are particularly important for her. I go out with the other lady, who is more mobile, and we go to the shops together occasionally.
“Volunteering as a befriender makes a big difference to the local community as it helps to reduce isolation and gives people something to look forward to; I see the benefits of my visits and enjoy it immensely.
“Helping others with transport means that they can attend doctors’ appointments and take part in social activities, which they might not be able to access on their own.
“I benefit greatly from volunteering; I feel that I add something to the community and help those who are not as able as myself. It gives me a lovely sense of fulfilment.
One of the ladies that Avril visits said “Befriending alleviates loneliness; I’m grateful for the visits. They allow me to share my points of view with Avril, which is very stimulating.
“Before Avril’s visits, I was in complete isolation for over ten months – a very long time. Although I have a lady who helps with cleaning and my son who does my weekly shopping, they don’t have time to spend chatting.
“Avril’s visits gives me companionship after being so isolated. It’s such a good service.”
is an annual event which celebrates the difference volunteers make to every community across the country. Royal Voluntary Service provides support to older people across Great Britain through a network of volunteers like Avril. Find out how to volunteer near you
or get local support for an older person
Funds raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery are helping us to run a specialist service in Doncaster, helping older people with dementia and their carers. Wendy and Ken have only been using the Doncaster Dementia Support service for a short time but Victoria, their volunteer, has had a big impact on their lives.
“Victoria makes a huge difference to our lives; she is a lovely, gentle person. It’s an amazing relief for me that I don’t worry about Ken when she’s with him. She takes him in his wheelchair on her own and they go to the shops.”
While Ken was working as a Vicar in South London, he was crushed by a lorry and subsequently uses a wheelchair. Having recently retired and following a severe fall, tests revealed that he had suffered from a stroke leading to vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s. His wife of 28 years, Wendy, is his main carer. They live together in a bungalow and find it difficult to get out and about, which can make them quite isolated.
“Both of us were very isolated. It’s lucky that we love each other very much. We try to be happy in all circumstances.”
Victoria visits Ken & Wendy for two hours every alternate Monday, so that Wendy and her daughter can get out of the house and do some shopping.
“I think I provide reassurance to Wendy, she knows that Ken is ok when I’m there. Ken and I play scrabble which is good for his memory. When we go to the shops, I encourage him to reach and get things from the shelves. I try and encourage his independence skills as much as possible.
“Volunteering gives me a sense of purpose, I feel valued and appreciated. I know that Wendy relies on me so I make sure I’m always on time. I know I make an impact, and because of that I feel more connected to the community I live in.”
Victoria has two small children and a third on the way, but she still finds time to volunteer, because she enjoys it.
“My Aunty passed away and I was grieving, my friend who is a volunteer suggested I do something to ‘brighten up my life.’ And it has, I am much happier for knowing Wendy and Ken.”
Thank you to People's Postcode Lottery players
for helping Royal Voluntary Service to make a difference to the lives of older people all over Great Britain. Join our team of volunteers
and improve lives near you.
Meet Carol from South Yorkshire who receives support from her local Good Neighbours companionship service. She tells us why the Winter months can be hard and why her volunteer brightens her day.
“I have had help from Royal Voluntary Service for over a year now and it has made an immense difference to my life. I had asked for help from other organisations and was either told that the services had stopped or received no reply. For an older person who lives alone and with illness, this was really not good.
“Just by chance, I came across my local services details and left a message. Much to my surprise, I got a call back very soon after from a very special, lovely bubbly lady who took my details and explained about what the organisation did.
“The same lady became a huge support to me by visiting once a week and helping me by becoming my friend, advising me and helping me with my weekly shop. I really look forward to her visists which always brighten me up. My volunteer is very caring, understanding, chatty and fun; a lifeline to someone who does not always see a lot of other people.
“The service is excellent and I would be lost without it. It means a great deal to me and lots of others. I would definitely recommend it to others.
“In the Winter months, I get more depressed and my pain increases with the cold, wet climate, as it does for many people. I find December particularly depressing when it’s dark at 4pm. One feels more isolated and alone.
“People are busy with family plans or preparations and have less time to chat. It seems rubbish if you are on your own at Christmas; even the TV adverts have people gathered together or around a large table. People rush in from the cold so you see even less of others than normal. Getting around is also more difficult.
“I think if you’re on your own you are more vulnerable and feel less safe in a lot of situations today and even more so in Winter months when there are fewer people about. The evenings and nights seem darker somehow.
“The best thing about my volunteer and local service is that you have that friendship, support and kindness. It makes you feel more included in society. My faith in humanity has been restored.”
Royal Voluntary Service is part of the Met Office’s Get ready for Winter campaign. Read volunteer David's blog about what we can do to make winter a less lonely time for older people. Our network of volunteers help vulnerable older people like Carol to stay independent and connected throughout the year.