By way of a quick introduction, my name is Debby and my son, Ash, is one of the founders of Volunteero. I have recently taken my first steps towards becoming a volunteer for Age UK Northamptonshire and Ash has asked if I would be up for blogging my journey, so here goes...
I am a mother of 3 and have 2 beautiful granddaughters. My kids have all flown the nest, one didn't go far, in fact she lives opposite me! One flew all the way to Australia. I am now retired but me and my husband rent out two properties on AirBnB and that keeps us nice and busy.
I have had some dramatic life changes over recent years including moving from our lifelong family home, losing both of my parents and retiring from my career in financial services. The culmination of these led to 5 years of mental health issues.
I am one of the lucky ones because I have an amazing network of family and friends around me without which I have no idea how I would have coped. It made me start to look around at how I could help someone who may be having their own issues through loneliness or their own mental health struggles. Having heard Ash talk about his befriending experience with Age UK, and knowing it was his first-hand experience that was behind the initial idea for Volunteero, I thought that being a telephone befriender would be a good place to start.
I think most would have some apprehension when doing anything new so I am certainly no different when it comes to volunteering as a befriender.
My main concern is that I tend to jump in with both feet and my natural instinct would be to want to make everything ok for each client by trying to fix any problems they may have… Luckily Caroline at Age UK made it very clear that my role is to listen and support. Anything else would be flagged up via the app and dealt with by another team at Age UK. This reassurance has given me such confidence. Caroline also said I would be advised, again via Volunteero what the outcome had been - therefore getting continuity for the next conversation.
Another fear is taking on this responsibility when my own mental health can still be up and down. I am aware that some of these clients may not have had any contact with anyone for days. I don't feel confident enough to take on any sort of direct volunteering role yet but the idea of phone befriending sits comfortably with me and even if I have a 'bad day' I can still phone on another day when I am feeling stronger.
I intend to start slowly with perhaps 2 clients for a couple of weeks to see how it goes before I take on anyone else. I will report back in a few weeks' time - fingers crossed.