Volunteer Stories: How supporting someone through volunteering can act as a "window to the outside world"
This blog is part of a series that celebrates the stories of the amazing Community Care Volunteers that have been supporting vulnerable people across Leeds during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read their stories and find out more about the people who have been uplifting their communities.
Wendy is a retired teacher who lives relatively local to Moor Allerton Elderly Care (MAECare) in Alwoodley, where she volunteers as a Community Care Volunteer (CCV).
Her two grown-up children normally live and work in London but a few days before ‘lockdown’ happened, both children decided to come home and spend ‘lockdown’ with her and her husband.
Volunteering hasn’t been what Wendy thought it would be. She explains how supporting someone can give them a window to the outside world.
How has your daily life changed during COVID-19?
“My life hasn’t changed hugely. My husband works from home and usually goes to London once a week, so he hasn’t been going. Both my adult children came home, so that was different.
I do visit a couple of my late Mum’s friends who are elderly, and I’ve always done that, so I was still doing a little bit of shopping for them.”
Why did you become a Community Care Volunteer?
“At the beginning of all this, I saw the NHS request initially, then I saw that Councillor Cohen was on line saying you could apply to the council. That’s what I did. It’s very local and I know the area, although some of the estates are a bit of a maze and I have had to use my sat-nav to find my way around.”
What does your Community Care volunteering role entail?
“It involves shopping for people. I’ve done a few shops every week, and there a few people that I have seen more than once. It’s usually women too. I’ve only seen one man the whole time. It seems to be younger people - young mothers at home with children.”
When given someone support, Wendy states that she usually phones them first to find out what shopping she needs to get. “Sometimes it’s a quick call, sometimes it’s a longer chat.”
Wendy volunteers three days a week but says, “If there was something everyday, I’d do it.” The opportunities to volunteer are put on line by MAECare (mid morning) and then volunteers let them know if they are available to support on that day.
“If I have some shopping to do, I go to Tesco’s on Roundhay Road – you can get most stuff there. One of the main things with having the CCV badge is that you don’t have to queue. I’ve know my way around the store and I know where all the bargains are.” Wendy does two shops at a time – as she can’t get any more than that in a trolley.
How has volunteering during COVID-19 crisis made you feel?
“It is quite a nice thing to do – to help other people. I’m somebody who doesn’t like being locked down. I’m so grateful that I don’t have to be in lockdown. Thank goodness I’ve got my health. So, from the beginning I just wanted to get out. This has given me the opportunity to get out of the house. It’s given me routine too. It’s been nice to be able to help people who can’t get out.”
Wendy also was surprised that how run down it was in the area she was volunteering, which she hadn’t noticed before. She only lives half an hour up the road. “Some of the streets look abandoned. A few look terrible, which shocked me.
I quite enjoy shopping. I like chatting to people on the phone and I like being out and about. It’s very nice when people say, ‘Thank you very much’. I have thought that I’d like to carry on with it. I like the flexibility of it. It’s been a good experience and it’s meant I haven’t felt too locked down as I’ve been able to go out of the house.”
Have you volunteered before?
“Only bits unofficially, like getting the shopping I mentioned earlier to help my mother’s friends. My mother volunteered at a charity shop at Moortown Corner for 20 years. She was still going twice a week aged 87.”
Do you have a message to anyone thinking about volunteering?
“Volunteering gives you a purpose. It’s good to help people. It gives the people who you’re supporting a window to the outside world. It’s very satisfying to be able to give something back. It’s not what I thought it was. It was a mixture of doing it for me, so I wasn’t locked in the house, whilst helping others at the same time. I would say do it.”
Any other comments you’d like to make?
“In a way, I’m sorry that it’s slowing down. It’s given me something to do every day. Something useful and helpful, rather than just thinking about myself. I would like to continue and it’s opened my eyes to people with needs in my local neighbourhood, not just elderly people.”
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/
Post Written by Ronnie Mile
Project Worker at Voluntary Action Leeds