Val’s Story

1 June 2017

Val’s Story

In 2015, during the last months of his life, my late husband asked me occasionally what I would do with my time when was no longer around.  He was a wonderful, funny Irishman with a great sense of humour so I could tease him with a lot of ridiculous answers: toy boys; constant cruises to exotic places; and champagne parties at the Ritz and Savoy.  It never occurred to him that I would be grieving, not only for him but also for my beloved daughter who died in 2011 aged 42 from cancer.

Joking aside I did tell him that I would probably do voluntary work.  ”I would like you to do that!” he replied.  Then, one day eighteen months on and by now a widow I was visited by my precious young friend A, who told me that she had been employed by Colchester CVS on a 3 months internship.  I was delighted for her.

I had first met A some eleven years previously when she and her husband had moved to live in a house opposite to ours.  She was from Uzbekistan and was somewhat hesitant to speak English to this chattering neighbour who was trying to engage her in conversation.  Within a decade, this shy beautiful creature had passed her O levels, A levels and gone to university to gain a degree in Business studies.  My husband and I had come to love her like a daughter, so I felt very proud of her achievements.

“Only trouble is I need to recruit volunteers” she said.  Without thinking I heard myself saying: “Oh, put my name down”.  What had I done?  It was fate!  It was as if both my late husband and daughter had sent her to motivate me.  I could almost hear them saying, instead of drowning in grief, get out there and do something useful!

So here I am, five months later, swept along on a wave of visits to Lion Walk Activity Centre every Friday morning to help people to meet new friends, and to Colchester General Hospital every Wednesday to see ‘my ladies‘ on Darcy Ward.  Not forgetting my trips to the library where I meet up with a gusty young man who has dyslexia.  I simply read and write down questions from the computer that he needs to answer for his exam.  He wants to be a personal trainer and believe me, he will be successful.  My two hours with him fly by.

At the hospital I sit and talk to female patients for three to four hours.  Some have dementia/Alzheimer and some are there for surgical /investigative reasons.  Some are sweet, and some, let’s say, would like to be!  Whatever!  I feel privileged to share in their memories and stories – each one unique and special.  Sometimes I come home and shed a tear or two, but more often than not I have a jolly good laugh.

We must never lose our compassion and sense of humour.  These two components help make us human and remind us what we are on this planet for.  The few hours I give of my life in offering voluntary services are nothing to what I receive in return.  Nothing in life is perfect, but we can soften the edges of pain and suffering with a kindly smile and warm ‘Hello’.  Thank you Community360 making me useful again!

Click on the links below to see a few of the current volunteering vacancies at Community 360:

Home from Hospital Team Member

Work Club Supporter

Minibus Drivers – Colchester and surrounding areas

IT Volunteer for Befriending Project

Admin Assistant


  • Thurrock are looking for volunteers to support their carers. If you would like more information click the link.