Volunteer Stories: The 81 year old volunteer helping local people feel less isolated during the pandemic

This blog is part of a series that celebrates the stories of volunteers during #VolunteersWeek2020. The amazing people across Leeds that volunteered as Community Care Volunteers in response COVID-19 have made supporting vulnerable people across Leeds possible. Read their stories and find out more about the people who have been uplifting their communities.

81 year old Leeds resident, Molly Mayes, has been volunteering with AVSED (Aireborough Voluntary Services to the Elderly) for four years.

Although the COVID-19 outbreak has meant Molly has lost some of her former freedom, meaning she can no longer go and see her friends - she still volunteers as part of a befriending service over the phone, making sure other people don’t become isolated

Molly discusses how COVID-19 has impacted her life and how she doesn’t see her age as a barrier to helping other people.

How has your normal daily life changed during the COVID-19 outbreak?

It’s meant that I can’t just go out and pop in to see people. I can’t go see my friends, I can’t pop into AVSED for a catch up, I have to ring them up. I’ve lost some of the freedom I had before. My diary has never been so empty!


Why did you decide to volunteer to help vulnerable people at this time?

My friend Beryl arranged for us to go to Tai-Chi, run by AVSED, and she was volunteering with them and said I should give it a go. I’m not one of them people who just jump into things. I thought about it for a few weeks and then decided to try it and I’ve never looked back.

I’ve been volunteering with them for about four  years now. I usually run the social centre on a Wednesday but now we can’t do that. I still wanted to help so AVSED got me doing telephone befriending. I talk to three people every week. Sometimes its just 20 minutes having a natter and other times I can be on the phone for an hour.

Molly Mayes

What volunteer role are you doing? And what does this entail?

I do telephone befriending with 3 people (John, June and Joan). I sort of knew them before but not very well. One of them said to me the other day “before all of this, we were acquaintances but now we’re friends”. I do it every Wednesday because that was my volunteering day before so it’s kind of kept the routine for me. I’ve never found it difficult, I can talk to anyone. But John gets down sometimes, he feels stuck and being at home affects his mental health, you don’t have that social interaction which is hard. Telephone befriending means a lot to people; it might be the only person they speak to that day or that week.


What does a normal day as a Community Care Volunteer entail?

It’s just picking up the phone on a Wednesday and having a natter. We have a catch up and sometimes they need to call me back because their phone rings and it’s their family calling, we’re comfortable with each other that they can do that. Sometimes I talk loads and they say they haven’t managed to get a word in edge-ways but enjoy just listening, other times they want to talk a lot and I listen.

I was talking to Joan one day and she said she was going to go and put some boiled eggs on for her tea, 2 hours later we were still talking and she realised she’d forgotten about her boiled eggs. We’d both forgotten about them! I think if we weren’t talking, she might have panicked but we could laugh about it together and it was ok. She said she won’t be making boiled eggs again! I’m looking forward to when we can hopefully do the doorstep befriending instead of telephone. It’ll be nice to sit in the garden and take a flask of tea, actually see people face to face and chat.


What have been your experiences of volunteering during COVID-19 and how it’s impacted you so far?

It’s meant that I can still give my time. Volunteering for the last few years has been a real life line for me actually. I lost my husband and my daughter lives in Canada, I don’t have any siblings and my relatives live in the Midlands, so I don’t really have any family close by.

It’s amazing that I can still help, sometimes people see your age and straight away think that you can’t do things yourself or you have dementia, but AVSED don’t judge anyone and respect everyone. I enjoy talking to people and everyone has stories to tell, I love listening to local history stories of families who have grown up in the area and it’s helped me make friends.


What’s your message for anyone thinking about volunteering?

Just do it, just get involved. It makes you feel good to support people, I always support new volunteers as well, and they are always welcome. When a new volunteer comes along I get paired up with them to show them the ropes and help them feel comfortable.


The Community Care Volunteering programme is not currently accepting applications from new volunteers but there are still lots of other volunteering opportunities available in Leeds. To find out more, please visit https://doinggoodleeds.org.uk/i-want-to-volunteer/


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