Fordie’s Story is the first of our 2018 Volunteer Story winners. Sally’s Story will appear on 8th June and Graham’s on 15th June.
After 52 years with the same company working in the printing industry, being made redundant at 67 was quite a distressing time until I chanced upon a Community Transport advert for volunteer drivers which changed my life for the better.
I started by taking elderly people shopping to the local supermarket, waiting for them to shop and then dropping them back home. Whilst a very useful service I found it lacking and considered giving up until was introduced to Sally at Voluntary Action Epping Forest who suggested trying conservation and gardening with some very special people.
They were a mixed group with ages ranging from 23 to 66 – all with very different special needs and considerations. I volunteer two days a week and occasionally at weekends (but only if there is something special on).
On Mondays we have an allotment at an elderly people’s home where we have installed raised growing beds and we actively encourage the residents to join us to try to get some interaction going which is beneficial to both our group and the residents. The produce we grow is left in the kitchen for the residents own use which they seem to appreciate. We also do conservation work on Thursdays at the Royal Gunpowder Mills in Waltham Abbey and tidy the areas which are open to schools and the paying public. More recently we are at Grange Farm in Chigwell which is new to us and very rewarding – planting saplings and seeing them grow, weeding around fruit trees, clearing branches before leaf mulching to avoid damage to the machinery – all extremely rewarding tasks and well within the capability of the group.
Occasionally we join one of our sister groups “Mow & Grow” where elderly occupants’ gardens have become overgrown and need rather drastic clearance – this is very popular with our group. Last year for something different I brought the group to my own bungalow to clear the ditch at the end of my garden of nettles and brambles (after Sally carried out a risk assessment of course, the biggest risk being next doors cat). In return I provided a Barbeque with bangers and burgers followed by ice cream and a great time was had by all.
Sometimes we have trips to the seaside and occasionally, especially on birthdays, we have a pub lunch. The team treats me with affection and respect, which, at my time of life, is extremely satisfying and most welcome.
Since becoming a volunteer with this group my life is considerably more interesting and I now have a new group of friends both within the organisation and with other related groups.
Occasionally some of us meet socially and our partners are included too, especially if it’s at one of the many hostelries in the area or a quiz night.
I can certainly recommend any kind of volunteering, whatever suits your needs and capabilities. You will get satisfaction, make new friends and you’ll not only feel needed but you will be much appreciated which in turn will give you a greater quality of life. Why not give it a try, you have nothing to lose and maybe a lot to gain!
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