Wickford’s Hilda Robinson, 92, was at a very low point in 2013 after losing her husband and suffering two broken bones. She was finding life by herself very difficult, but a social worker told her about the new Community Agents Essex scheme, which helps people like Hilda find their independence and live life as fully as possible. Hilda’s community agent helped her to start making a new life for herself, and now the scheme is looking for more people across Essex who would be interested in volunteering to help others like her.
“When my husband died it was a huge shock to me, my whole world shattered,” says Hilda. “We had enjoyed our retirement together and he was so active and vigorous – he cared for me when I had health problems and we did everything for ourselves.
After I lost him I got very low – I used to go to bed at night hoping I wouldn’t wake up.
My eyesight had been deteriorating and it got a lot worse, which was frightening, and I started to find it difficult and stressful to travel outside my home. I had gone from being independent and happy to depending on people for so many things, and it was very hard – I just wanted to die”
Fortunately, Hilda was introduced to Community Agents Essex and soon had a home visit from Rita Carlyon of the British Red Cross, one of the partners in the scheme. Rita, 57, also lives in Wickford and became a community agent because she enjoys working with older people.
“She was so sympathetic and she seemed to understand me,” says Hilda. “She didn’t push me to do things I wasn’t comfortable with, or try to ‘jolly’ me out of my sadness, but listened to me. We chatted about family, life and the things that interested me. She seemed to enjoy visiting and I never felt as though I was imposing on her. In fact, I felt as though I’d known her for years.”
With Rita’s help Hilda found the confidence to visit a local craft club for visually impaired people, this has enabled Hilda to find new friends and to rekindle her love of knitting and crochet who now feels much more positive and less lonely.
“I’m so grateful to Rita for encouraging me to go to the club, and for taking the time to chat to me. She brought me tremendous comfort and I never felt as though I was imposing on her. I don’t know what I would have done without her. I’m beginning to feel better now after two very difficult years, starting to manage my loneliness and appreciate how lucky I am, and I think Rita has had a lot to do with that – I have her to thank for helping me move forward.”
Rita loves her work as a community agent
“It’s such a great opportunity to help, and make a real difference to people in the local community. This role is very rewarding. There are so many people out there on their own who don’t see anyone, or know what kind of support is available to them. The help and advice and support we at Community Agents Essex give to people can make a huge difference to their lives”
Community Agent volunteers provide a wide range of support including shopping, paying bills, going to appointments, gardening, getting a home help or installing stair rails and grab rails –but the most important part is often the friendly face and conversation.
Hours are flexible and full training and support is provided.