There’s more than one way to get on the path of volunteering. When Sage Accounting offered to loan its interested employees as phone-befriending volunteers for Age U.K., Tony happily accepted. Asking open-ended questions and listening intently are both skills used in his current position, as well as from his former position as Deputy Head at a secondary school.
“I’m used to talking to people because I used to be a teacher before I went to Sage. I personally enjoyed it (the calling) so much that I was on for more than half a day because I felt like I was making a huge difference to those people.”
When not working, Tony resides with his wife in Ashington, home of famed World Cup Champions, the Charlton brothers. His early days were spent in Manchester where he played as a footballer for England Schools . Having taught nearly every subject, Tony eventually longed for a better work life balance and so transitioned to accounting. In his spare time he and his wife tend their immaculate garden, cycle, and take walks along the coast of the North Sea.
One thing that became very clear to Tony from his conversations was that there is an entire generation of elders painfully disconnected from society. The younger generation easily navigates the Internet to communicate with loved ones, access important information, and order food and supplies online. Yet for seniors who do not know how to connect to these resources, the isolation of quarantine is only amplified.
Many of those he called expressed surprise to receive a befriending call so long after their initial request for one. But an unexpected pandemic places a burdensome demand on the scaffolding of volunteer resourcing. Companies like Volunteero were created in response to the bottleneck of support. Their application has helped Age U.K. and other charities more easily organize, connect, and support these interactions between volunteers and the people who need them. Tony praised the Volunteero app as:
“Really easy to use and a great, great way to get quick access to the data that you need.”
It was impressive to listen to the colourful life stories of some of his befriended seniors. One ninety-eight-year-old lady, just two years from receiving her card from the queen, still managed to do her own shopping when the weather cooperated. Of those he chatted with, he said:
“They were independent and wanting to get on by themselves, but they were, clearly, very lonely... unbelievably lonely. And I really felt for them.”
Though those who received phone calls were incredibly grateful, Tony observed that a small number of his fellow volunteers found it difficult to face the hardship experienced by their elders. But, he found that if he just allowed people to express their feelings and lead the conversation, the calls were inevitably enriching. Tony so appreciated his position as a loaned volunteer that he easily visualizes himself working with a charity like Age U.K. in his coming retirement.