Ged and his wife Pat are a Volunteero dynamic duo. A power couple married for 52 years, they have a long history of giving back to their community. For eleven years, they participated in a Christian program called Healing on the Streets, offering prayer to those who requested it.
“I can talk to anybody about anything,” Ged says with a smile.
But as the pandemic spread, their social outreach was interrupted. And being over 75 years of age, they themselves were declared part of society’s most vulnerable. No longer eligible for in-person volunteering, they could not continue their ministry or work with the homeless at The Mercy Hub of St. Mary’s Cathedral. Even their church no longer had need for their musical services.
As part of an extended family of twelve, Ged and Pat also had children insisting they quarantine even before it was obligatory. So they listened, and stayed put. Ged laughed that since March, he has only now put more diesel into his car.
But even being homebound could not keep this couple from trying to be of service. Through Age UK Gateshead, they each committed to phone befriending five individuals. Every day of the workweek, each can be found on their mobile calling his or her friend of the day. Ged particularly liked the Volunteero app’s easy follow-up reporting. Usually, he says, it only takes a few weekly calls before rapport is built and the conversations become more meaningful.
“It’s amazing how open people are to tell you sometimes very personal things.”
But even when his befriended are less forthcoming, seemingly small comments can have a lasting impact. When Ged was asked about an interaction that was particularly meaningful to him, he recalled talking with a man who struggled with anxiety and addiction. Although their conversations had not been easy, at the end of their most recent phone call, the man warmed Ged’s heart with a simple, “thank you, Mate.”
“Originally, you’re trying to put something back into society, but I think that it actually benefits you more than them. It’s not just a feel good factor... I am making a difference.”
When not on the phone, Ged can be found reading a book to children on Zoom or killing it on Candy Crush. Together, he and Pat watch ballet on television, take turns cooking dinner, and dream of when they can get back to traveling to places like Prague or Gdansk. Through phone befriending, and participating in groups online, this Volunteero couple are an excellent example of how to stay healthy, remain socially connected, and still give back.