Cathy's Volunteer Story
As part of International Volunteer Day, we spoke to Cathy Earl who volunteers at Speedwell Court, to find out a little more about her and her experience as a volunteer.
Tell us a bit about your experience of volunteering at Abbeyfield? What do you do?
Volunteering at Speedwell Court is so rewarding. When I’m in, I help Jennifer and Jessica (both Activities Coordinators) with the running of various activities, as well as being on hand to make residents a lovely cup of tea of coffee. I sometimes lead activities too.
During my time at Speedwell Court, a lot of it has been spent building relationships with the residents, which has been the most rewarding thing for me. Having taught all my working life, I have been able to use these skills but in a different, and meaningful context.
How did you learn about Speedwell Court and what made you want to become a volunteer?
I met Neil Thompson (Service Development Manager) and Debbie Holmes (Customer Relations Manager) at a presentation. Neil talked about volunteering, I thought it was something I could do so I decided to visit Speedwell Court whilst it was still under construction.
After this, I attended a volunteers meeting in June 2019 and a training session on dementia to get prepared. I attended the grand opening of Speedwell, helping out where it was needed and the rest is history! During my career, I had relied on the community to help my students, so I thought this was a great way of giving back and spending some time with the older generation.
It is rewarding and satisfying, but as a person I have benefited so much it's hard to put into words how.
What makes Speedwell Court special to you?
Having seen Speedwell Court go from a building site to what it is today, I can certainly say it is a very special place, a community, where all the residents and their well-being is of the utmost importance and the staff are so caring. Being given the opportunity to become part of the team by the two fantastic Activities Coordinators, Jennifer and Jessica has been wonderful. I now have an extended family, and a much better understanding of dementia.
What difference has this experience made to Your life?
I wanted to find out if this was what I wanted to do, and it has been, 110%. I wanted to enjoy and gain from the experience in different ways, which I have. I feel very much part of the Speedwell team. Meeting, talking to, and learning about the residents has been so rewarding. I have made new friends, and if I have given them a little something, then that’s all that matters.
I would like to thank Cathy for giving us her time to support many of our events and activities, she really has been a blessing. The bond she has created with the residents is amazing. She really is a part of the Speedwell team. - Jennifer Varney, Activities Coordinator
If you were to tell a friend about your experience what would you say?
I would definitely recommend a friend to volunteer. Initially I thought I wouldn’t have much to offer as I’m not a practical person, but as soon as I realised that just being there, listening, and talking to the residents means so much to them, I was sure I had a lot to give. Giving back is so rewarding.
Can you tell us about the My Life Films?
I take pride in being able to coordinate the ‘My Life Films' produced for residents at Speedwell Court. My Life Films are a UK-registered not-for-profit charity dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by dementia. The My Life Films team are a group of passionate filmmakers who believe that every person has as a wonderful life story to tell.
I talk to the resident and their family, to learn more about their life from past to present. Going through their photos is always so interesting. Creating these films has been so worthwhile and rewarding, especially when the families are pleased with the end result. I learn so much about the individual – each person’s life is inspiring in a different way.
If you could sum up your volunteering experience what would you say?
When I decided to volunteer I wanted to give something back, but from my experience at Speedwell, I realise now that there is so much more to volunteering than I originally thought. It is rewarding and satisfying, but as a person I have benefited so much it's hard to put into words how.
From a personal viewpoint, my mother lived at Speedwell Court. The staff at Speedwell have been very supportive and have helped me greatly since she dies, so what was supposed to me giving of my time, has been much more, and the folk at Speedwell (both staff and residents) have been there for me and have helped me also.
We have so many great opportunities to help older people in both our homes and in the community. Take a look at all our current opportunities.*
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