Volunteer voices

Some of the stories and experiences of Cheshire East Volunteers.

 Thank you – you are all amazing.

I had volunteered for Cheshire Wildlife Trust for almost 10 years when lockdown happened and all volunteering came to a halt. I saw the call on Audlem Online for volunteers to help people who were housebound and shielding with shopping and collecting prescriptions.

During the course of this last year I have met so many interesting people from the village. I have heard stories from residents who have lived in the village for many years. I’ve had wide-ranging doorstep conversations about families, travel, local and national politics and the very significant difference between a Warburton’s wholemeal loaf and a Co-op wholemeal loaf!

Some of the people I’ve delivered shopping to have been quite inspirational, for example the lady who is in her eighties who walks on her treadmill for over an hour every day because it not only helps her asthma but also helps her mental health.

I’ve also been able to ensure that those who have been most cut off from friends and families are coping both physically and mentally; this was particularly important around Christmas time to ensure that everyone had some human contact during the festive season.
I’ve seen first-hand the trepidation from some residents when they left their homes for the first time for almost 12 months to go and get their vaccination. I’ve heard the longing in the voice of a lady who has watched the bus go past her cottage for a year but who now feels that, after having her second vaccination, she can once again catch the bus to meet her friends for coffee.
Whilst I have helped my local community, I also feel that I’ve made many friends and gained so much from the experience. I hope to continue supporting ADCA in the future.

Cheryl Cooper – Audlem and District Community Action (ADCA)

I had waited quite some time for the opportunity to get involved in voluntary work, on a one-to-one basis. Knowing first hand the importance having a listening ear makes, someone who understands, when going through difficult & lonely times in life.

During 2020, I was asked if I would be a talking buddy to three people and throughout lockdown I have got to know all of them & can honestly say it has been a privilege to hear about their lives & stories. From the first few phone calls making small talk to speaking openly about sadnesses, to voicing fears, to laughing together about the curiosity of life. We have shared walks with dogs, homemade biscuits & a coffee together when we’ve been allowed.

We’ve talked about our lives from the day-to-day stuff to family dynamics to birds in our gardens to the latest news headlines – just talking.

Helping during those dark, cloudy days… And rejoicing when there have been blue skies & sunshine!
Our lives would never have crossed but have ended up adding a valued connection to each of us. It’s been a lovely way to make a difference…

Jyoty Kohia

It was simply a pleasure to volunteer – I supported 3 people who were isolating and will refer to them as my lovelies! The gentleman I supported was delightful and when I did his shopping I would always put a little treat in his bag, something warm from Chatwins.

Mrs C liked certain things from certain stores and one day I had to visit five different shops for five different items! I loved my little trips for my ‘charges’ and really missed it when I returned to work. Volunteering really helped me when we were stuck in the house, the weather was delightful and walking out for shopping for someone was I think, a good thing for me and I hope for them too.

Viv Dunn – Sandbach volunteer

As the person I was supporting and I got to know each other we spent more time chatting and discovered that we had quite a bit in common. I like to think she has become a bit more independent and more recently I have tried to support her to resume her normal activities.

This has not been easy after her shielding for 18 months or so. However we have been out for our first coffee together today, which I thoroughly enjoyed. She has asked me to tell you that she thinks I am the best volunteer she has had! We speak regularly on the phone and hope to remain good friends. I feel we have both benefitted from this relationship and hope it will continue.

Helen M – Elworth volunteer

I am pretty proud of helping out during Covid with Wilmslow Self Isolation Group. I helped collect and deliver lots of prescriptions to people who were vulnerable and shielding. I also did some shopping for a gentleman weekly as part of this group.

It felt so great to be helping out when I could and I loved seeing people’s faces smiling at me and so grateful that I could help them.

Wilmslow Self Isolation Group Volunteer

I wanted to share my story because I’m humbled by some of the vulnerable ladies I had the honour to help during the pandemic.

One lady is in her 80’s and is one of the strongest, most optimistic people I have ever met, intelligent and great company despite our age difference. She has been the main carer at home for her husband who had a terminal illness throughout the pandemic. She has suffered many setbacks over the years, including the death of her son a couple of years ago and then her husband passed away late last year.

However she remains upbeat and optimistic, has sold her home and is now looking forward to moving into a new flat. We are still in touch by telephone although she no longer needs help with her groceries, and has invited me to her new flat for a cup of tea when restrictions allow.

The pandemic has been very difficult for all concerned, but I believe that every cloud has a silver lining. I probably wouldn’t have met her if I hadn’t volunteered for the PHP scheme. My volunteering experience, has been more than I could ever have hoped for, truly. I think the lockdown has given us an amazing way to connect with each other and really hope this can continue in some form

Wilmslow Volunteer

Before volunteering on the app I was lucky enough to be accepted as a prescription delivery driver in Alderley Edge on the day of lockdown. I met nothing but excellent people and nurses keeping the ‘stiff upper lip’ despite not knowing what was ahead; then I got the dreaded Covid and stopped immediately.

Since then I’ve spoken to lovely people from all points in England, some with harrowing tales, all lonely after losing their face to face with friends and loved ones. Years after losing their life partner, it was the loss of their friends and little clubs that is really hurting them, as almost without exception it is those without family who are hit the hardest.

There is also a little lady down the road who preferred to take my number (among other locals) so she knows who is bringing her meds when the chemist can’t. Despite being 92 and an injured ankle she always has a comment on the day’s news with a glint in her eye.

It’s really good to know that if one cannot help, with the touch of an app the task is sent onwards always knowing that there is someone else to be there.

It’s just a modest window into my experience but I’m proud of it in a quiet way.

Colin Ball – Alderley Edge Volunteer

I was furloughed in May 2020, this came as a shock to me as I had never had to just switch my computer off and be in a situation where I thought I might not have a job to go back to.

The first thing I did was contact various organisations to help with the ‘effort’ plus I had time on my hands which was an alien concept with me. I reached out to supermarkets which weren’t interested, and then I found I could volunteer via Cheshire East council.

From the 12 weeks I was furloughed I did 10 weeks working every Tues morning at the food bank in Macclesfield, I found that both worthwhile and felt that I was at least giving something to a community which needed the help. Whilst that was providing me with a little bit of structure in my week, I was lucky enough to apply and be successful for the live at home scheme which I am happy to say I still do even though I am back on work.

Because of Covid there are no face-to-face meetings, but what we do is provide a weekly phone call to a vulnerable, mainly shielding person who may not see or hear from anyone at all. I was looking to see if I could help with an organisation and this fitted perfectly to what I thought I could contribute to.

Besides being my Mum’s main carer, and the shopping at the beginning of the March 2020, lockdown was by no means fun we managed as well as we could.

Sarah – Macclesfield Volunteer

Ruby’s fund is a Congleton-based charity supporting children and young people with additional needs and
disabilities and their families and carers.

Susan says “I do shopping twice weekly for a lovely family, and recently they have taken to cake making with their son. Each week I have searched the supermarkets to get their requirements. They were so delighted when I was able to get all the ingredients. I also felt privileged when another gentleman asked me to choose some flowers for him as he wanted to put them in his house for his late wife. His face lit up when I returned with them. It feels good to bring a smile to someone.

Susan Jackson – A volunteer with Ruby’s Fund Congleton

I was put in touch with a lovely, kind lady called Marion in Holmes Chapel. Marion is having to shield herself at home as she is in a vulnerable group. This has been very difficult for her, as she is naturally an extremely sociable person, and very much enjoys having lunch out, or even just a trip to the shops.

She has been so grateful for the service Cheshire East is providing, it gives her a bridge to the outside world and I believe we have both benefited from the experience. I visit Marion, keeping my social distance in her garden, whilst she chats away to me from her doorway. We now know all about each other and our families and our hopes to go out for lunch together once the lockdown is over.

I have been doing a bit of shopping for Marion, which has been a learning experience for me, but we have muddled through. She is partially sighted, so I’m not always able to read her shopping list. Now I have learned to go through the list with her, checking I have everything right and making sure she has everything she needs.

I call her on the telephone if I’m not visiting for a few days, and we have lovely chats together. I think we will be friends for life after all this is over. All in all I think it’s been a positive experience for both of us.

Louise Dobbs – Volunteer