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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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“Activities we’ve run have pulled people out of isolation”

Valerie, an Royal Voluntary Service volunteerMeet Valerie who is giving her time, skills and knowledge to help address issues faced by older people in her neighbourhood. She lives in Boston, Lincolnshire. Valerie got involved with the Local People Project, which has been running since 2015, after attending local IT sessions.

“I heard that a computer course would be running, and as I had got a new tablet, I wanted to attend to learn more about how to use it.

“Through the lesson, I heard about the Local People project and how it was testing out ideas from local community to tackle loneliness and isolation amongst older people. The small gathering of residents, called a steering group, were working together to use funding available through the project to develop activities and events. 

“I wanted to be part of it because I wanted to help people who had an illness, or who were lonely, to get out and about. I’ve been a steering group member for two years now and I help decide and support local activities for older people, such as events, arts projects, community transport and afternoon teas. A singing group has been set up through the project and I attend this regularly – it’s had a very positive impact on me and helps me when I’m down. 

“I’ve made new friends that I wouldn’t normally have made contact with. I feel more able to go out on my own now. I’m more confident to speak up and encourage others too. I’ve noticed an increase in confidence in people at the group; I’ve made friends and have seen others do the same. Activities we’ve run have pulled people out of isolation. Our singing group has made a difference to people’s lives and the local community transport scheme, which is supported by the steering group, helps people who would struggle to leave the house without it.

“I’d encourage others to get involved. I would say that it’s definitely worthwhile, not only to the local community but also to you as a person.”

Gemma Moore is the Royal Voluntary Service community engagement worker in Boston. She finds out the most important local issues for older people, their ideas for addressing them and how they’d like to get involved. She supports residents to take their ideas forward and connect with local groups who share similar aims. A key part of Gemma’s role is to ensure that local people have control over how the project is developed and delivered. Bringing people together is a key part of the project. 

“Projects like these are very important as you enable and support the local community to not only get involved, but to have a say in what they want to deliver. Giving the local community opportunities to get together, have fun and meet new friends can have a real impact on their health, wellbeing and confidence. Many people experience loneliness and isolation; it’s great to be able to help combat this and have a real impact on people’s lives.” 

The Local People project in Boston 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 Thursday, 31 May 2018.

Labels: volunteer

"Every week you chat with somebody that seems very grateful"

We had a chat with the lovely Penny Gillett about her almost 30 years of volunteering at the Tea&Co café in Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridgeshire. We talked about rescuing an unfortunate fellow volunteer, the new Tea&Co café brand and the joys of volunteering.


Penny has volunteered for 30 years at Royal Voluntary Service

What motivated you to begin?

“My children were all off-hand, and I had worked in charity shops as well but that was not for me, so somebody suggested the canteen at the hospital and that’s where I went! Combined with the charity shops I’ve actually been volunteering for more than 30 years.”

What’s your strongest memory from volunteering?
“Well, that’s a bit hard to say. I suppose the best thing is that we meet so many nice people, the ladies I have worked with, the people that run the kitchen and mostly there is the customers. Every week you chat with somebody that seem very grateful for what you are doing. It’s just what keeps you coming back.”

That sounds great. Has anything dramatic ever happened?

Oh yes, I do remember this story strongly. One of our ladies was taken very ill and no doctors were able or nearby to see her immediately in the café. Really, nobody was around. It turned out she was having a heart attack in the kitchen, so I quickly found a wheelchair, put the poor lady in it and then I ran! I ran to A&E with her in the wheelchair and I went to the back entrance because I knew where it was. This was urgent, but the doctors and nurses were ready and the lady was taken away from me immediately as I arrived. They helped her and she was all okay in the end.”

Wow, it’s good that everything turned out well.
“Luckily most days are much more peaceful.”

The café has just been refurbished under the new Tea&Co concept. Can you tell me more about it?

“It looks far, far better than the old shop. I mean, it looks very professional and it’s good to have some healthier food options, that’s a brilliant idea. As long as we still have a few comfort foods too, because some people are ill and want something comforting to eat. But I think the focus on healthier options is a great idea.”

What are the options like now?
“There are a lot more healthy options and then there are still stands with cakes and so on. It looks lovely and people can still get things like sausage rolls but I they are based on healthier recipes now. On the whole I think it’s all good with the new menus.”

Do you think it’ll be easier to cater for diets like gluten-free, lactose-free etc.?
“I have noticed that there are more gluten-free items and I’m very aware of it, because I have two people in my family that can only eat gluten-free food. I’m very much aware of it and I think the range is very good.”

Thank you. Can I ask what you have gained from being a volunteer?

“Oh dear, it’s hard to put into words… I have really enjoyed the ladies I have worked with. You get quite a strong bond with people because you volunteer there every week with the same people. It is meeting people every week and doing something that is of a tiny bit of help. I think that’s all you can do in life, really. I do enjoy it.”

“You’re helping someone else. By the end of every shift, you realise how lucky you are, because there are other people coming in that are ill. You see people with quite bad illnesses and people who are caring for other people. You know, I’m very lucky that I’m able to stand here and volunteer”.

Can you recommend volunteering?
“I absolutely thoroughly do! I always recommend it to people. Normally, anybody that starts really likes it. I really hope this café will have volunteers far into the future.”
You can meet Penny and the other RVS volunteers at the Tea&Co café in Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

Find out how you can volunteer to make life better in your local area.

Posted by at 00:00 Friday, 25 August 2017.

Labels: volunteer