Shirley is a volunteer for Age UK Gateshead and is this week's Volunteer of the Week!
Age 62, Shirley lives and works in Gateshead, her job with the local authority involves supporting people who are living with Dementia.
During the early days of the pandemic, like many council staff, Shirley was seconded into the local support hubs. Throughout the lockdown, Shirley would make calls to elderly and isolated residents who were shielding from COVID19. Every week she made calls to over 50 people providing companionship, signposting advice and support. Shirley was surprised at how much this job impacted her. She told us that she got so much out of this role and even went as far as to describe it as one of the best things she had ever done.
As lockdown restrictions eased and local support hubs reduced their services, Shirley returned to her role at the day centre. Despite working part-time and being kept busy by her dog, Teddy and grandchild, Shirley missed her phone calls with older people and began looking for volunteering opportunities. Describing her motivation to volunteer, Shirley told us: “Even after Covid had eased, the loneliness and isolation that people experience, it’s still there. People still need someone”.
Shirley registered with Age UK Gateshead as a telephone befriender and was matched with a lady called Linda. Linda doesn’t have any family or friends, so Shirley is often the only person she has contact with.
For the past year, Shirley has phoned Linda at least once a week. They have a good chat and a laugh as Linda has a cheeky sense of humour. Shirley has also been a listening ear for any troubles faced by Linda and has supported her by signposting to relevant services when needed. When the effects of the pandemic negatively impacted Linda’s mental health, Shirley has been able to report any concerns directly to Age UK Gateshead through the Volunteero app.
Sharing her experience of befriending someone she’s never met, Shirley told us: “We’re just two strangers, we’ve never met. But we have such a lovely friendship”.
Since she started volunteering with Age UK Gateshead, Shirley has volunteered over 30 hours of her time to telephone befriending and describes the experience as: “So worthwhile. Your phone call, it means everything to them. Volunteering makes a big difference”.
Shirley also finds that by using the Volunteero app, she is able to take control of her volunteering. It enables her to have more flexibility over the time she commits as she balances work and family life, all while being able to remain in contact with Age UK Gateshead.
Thank you Shirley for everything you do!