West Leeds: Volunteering helps me as well as my charity

14 December 2015

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Pudsey resident Sharon Clarkson volunteers at elderly support group Pudsey Live at Home Scheme. Here’s her story of how volunteering helps her, as well as the charity she supports.

A few years ago The Hairy Bikers did a series on the BBC about Meals On Wheels, and at the end they suggested people with an hour or two of spare time a week or a month looked into volunteering for a local charity.

Many charities could not run without the support of volunteers! My son had just left for University, I worked part time and I felt something was missing in my life. I followed the link on https://do-it.org/opportunities/search there were many local charities wanting volunteers, from cub leaders to befrienders.

I didn’t realise how many charities there were in my local area. I filled in a form, had an interview and started volunteering for Pudsey Live At Home.

This is part of MHA.org.uk, which provides support to people who still live at home, many by themselves. They offer groups in the local area such as craft club, games club, lunch club, indoor bowling, shopping trips and days out. For people who might be housebound they provide befrienders.

Being a befriender!

My first volunteering role with Pudsey Live At Home was as a befriender.

I used to visit a gentleman in his 90’s once a week. He lived nearby and I’d call one afternoon a week for an hour or two, I’d put the kettle on, make us both a drink and we’d sit and talk. We talked about everything and anything. He read the paper everyday so was more aware of what was going on in the world than I was! We’d talk about the news, how all the death and destruction in the world causes grief and sadness and we’d laugh together over funny stories.

Despite the age gap we built a friendship, I loved to hear all his old stories, the mischief he got up to in the Army and memories of being a Tally Man, a door to door salesman.

He had other people in his life but no one had time to stop and talk to him for more than a few minutes, and his carers had time restrictions.

He made me smile and filled that gap left by my grandparents when they died. I gave him company and the chance of conversation. When I first started visiting he found it hard to talk, he felt he’d lost the ability of having a conversation, but after a few visits there was no stopping him.

To me befriending gave me a purpose in my life and I was very blessed to know my old chap.

I changed jobs and started working full time so didn’t have time to see anyone new but another way that I supported Pudsey Live At Home during this time was by baking for the fayres that they hold through the year at Easter, summer and Christmas.

I was soon running the baking stall at these events and am supported in this role by my mum, husband and son. Our donation at the fayres is our time and the cakes we bake.

‘Loneliness is a very sad place in life’

In a blog post I originally wrote in February 2013 about befriending I said:

Men and women who’ve lived full and active lives and who now feel they have nothing and nobody. How would you feel if you suddenly had no contact with anyone? It would make me sad and I would lose a part of me, my self esteem would disappear and I would find it hard to communication with people when I did see them, the art of conversation is lost. Loneliness is a very sad place in life.

Due to struggling with health issues in my mid 40’s I now know how true my statement actually was. I haven’t been able to work since October 2014 as my life suddenly turned upside down and back to front following a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia in July 2013.

Loneliness is indeed a very sad place to be. I am lucky to have a wonderful family and great friends but you can’t be with someone all of the time, and 9-5 every day is very lonely.

Volunteering has again been the answer to helping me as well as others! I now help once a week at a craft club held by Pudsey Live At Home and I go to the two Dementia Cafes that they run every month. I sit and chat and once again have made new friends, my life feels fuller and richer for the time that I spend as a volunteer.

Once again I have a purpose in life and I’m also helping myself as I’m not lonely in a room full of people.

If you have a couple of hours to spare on a regular basis or if you have skills you can share please please think about volunteering and helping a local charity.

If you work for a large company you may be able to get support from them to volunteer through their Corporate Responsibility Policy.

If you’re out of work it’s a great way to gain experience that will sit proudly on your CV as well as helping to give you confidence and increase your self esteem.

The greatest benefit from volunteering is how it makes you feel to be a part of something and if I can make someone smile that’s a great gift and also makes me smile.

If you’d like to find out more about becoming a volunteer or member of Pudsey Live At Home please contact them on 0113 256 2717.

If you want to find out more about volunteering, contact a local charity!


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