Volunteering helped me mentally, physically and emotionally
Hillary shares how volunteering has helped her cope with a stressful period in her life, develop friendships and get more exercise.
Q: What is your volunteering role?
A: Dog walking and befriending.
Q: Who is it with?
A: It’s with 2 sets of elderly neighbours: one couple and one widow.
Q: How did you find out about it?
A: I came to know about the need just by chatting to them – catching them as I passed in the street and asking how they were.
Q: Why did you get involved?
A: The dog walking started about two years ago. I had just been made redundant and found out that the husband of the elderly couple had fallen ill necessitating home care visit in the mornings. As there was no set time for these visits the wife couldn’t go out to take the dog for her morning constitutional, so I volunteered.
To be honest, it was a 2-way thing at that time. Forcing me out of the house every day for a good walk, helped me mentally, physically and emotionally through being redundant and full-time job-hunting. Once I found a job the dog walking reduced but I have kept it up and it fluctuates according to the couple’s health. As time has gone on, I suppose this has also developed into a befriending role, though I just see it as friendship really.
The same goes for the widow. It just happened naturally, after the initial conversation I could see she felt a bit lonely so I started calling on her once a week for a cuppa and a chat.
Q: What do you like about your volunteering?
A: I just love the people – they’re great! And I like the very local volunteering because it helps foster community spirit in my neighbourhood.
Q: Are there any challenges with your volunteering?
A: The biggest challenge is time, particularly with the weekly tea and chat. But I “diarise” this in my head so it’s a normal part of my week.
Q: What do you think is the biggest myth about volunteering?
A: It sucks you in and there’s no escape! You always have a choice. I know both sets of neighbours are very grateful for whatever support and time I can give and they would totally understand if I could no longer manage it – and there have been times when I couldn’t.
Q: What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting involved?
A: Go for it! It’s fun and you meet new people and make new friends. I have – not only with the people I volunteer with, but they’ve introduced me to their friends and family.