Mia was referred to us back in November from one of the housing coordinators. Mia suffers with bipolar, poor physical health and various other mental illnesses. Mia was very reluctant to become part of the service at first until she was paired with a young volunteer. It was during this week that I had cause to have to ring Mia and after asking her how she feels about the service this is what she had to say, and she also states that she would be very willing to talk to anybody about what the calls mean to her,
‘These calls have changed my life, the volunteer goes over and above what is required of her and even called me over the Christmas period and on Christmas day. This meant so much to me as I was on my own. She has literally turned my life around and even though I do suffer with bipolar I find that the calls ease me when I am in a depressive mood and really life me up. I cannot wait to get the call every week and I cannot thank you enough for giving me my volunteer, as I said it has changed my life and I now feel a lot more optimistic than I have ever done, so that you Rotherfed and that you to the volunteer, you just keep up the good work’
Emily came to us as a referral in October. She had been through very difficult times. She had recently lost her partner who had been abusive and had to come to terms with a lot of things. This abuse had also had in impact on her relationship with her family and despite only being in her early 60’s found herself very much alone. In November we had a new student come on board from Leeds Beckett University who from the first call found she got on really well with Emily and requested that she phones Emily every week as part of her call rota. This relationship had developed and in between Christmas and New Year, the volunteer took it upon herself to call Emily during this period even though she did not need to do so. I contacted Emily this week, and her report back to me on how the calls from the volunteer were going, was very emotional. She advised that this is the one thing that is constant in her life and knowing that she gets a phone call every week keeps her going and gives her something to look forward to. She informed me that she has found that her anxiety and depression has decreased, and she now feels optimistic for the future and could not thank me enough for her very valued calls.
Allison is a young volunteer 20 who wants to build experience as she would like to progress her career to become a counsellor in the future.
Claudia, 88 was paired with Allison and they have conversations every week, anything from 20 mins to 45 mins. Claudia does like to keep herself busy, but other than her career and she doesn’t really talk to many others at the moment. They talk in general about all sorts of things especially about how Claudia loves to knit and how she is progressing at this. She is also making plans for her garden in the summer. Claudia looks forward to her chats with Allison each week. A true cross generational friendship.
Craig came to us as a very nervous man who suffers with anxiety and depression. Craig receives weekly calls from a staff member. The calls are usually about 20 minutes in length but over the course of the calls a trust has been formed. Craig likes the calls to be around the same time each week which has been arranged. Although he still has his up and down weeks, through the conversations he is having he can set little goals each week, the latest was for him to book his Covid jab, he was extremely anxious about it. When I spoke to him this week, he had not only booked himself in, but had been and had it done. He realised it wasn’t so bad and is now so much less anxious about going for his second one.
Although Craig may never go over to a volunteer, he is receiving the calls and this is certainly helping him on a weekly basis.
Jack was referred to the service in November, he was a little unsure about engaging with the service. He is partially sighted and lives on his own. Jack has lived a colourful life working down the pit for 35 years before living in Cyprus for many years. A cheeky chap that would suit a local volunteer as he enjoys talking about local monuments etc.
Jack was allocated to one of our new volunteers Gill, following the first call we received feedback from Gill who was over the moon and asked if she could contact Jack again. I spoke with Jack who was equally enthusiastic about speaking again with Gill, he said “an hour passed in a blink of the eye and the dreaded Covid was not mentioned once, which was a blessing, was nice to just talk to someone normally” he added, “the conversation just flowed as we moved from topic to topic.” Jack may have been sceptical, but he is certainly enjoying the calls now.
Charlotte is a young 24 year old council tenant referred from Roundabout. Charlotte lives on her own and suffers with mental health and drug abuse. After my initial call to Charlotte, she seemed reluctant to talk or engage. I got her to start talking about animals and Africa and this enthralled her. She started to open up to me and an hour later we had built a good rapport. I promised that I would ring her a week later, which I did. She was eagerly anticipating my call and we had a great chat again. At the end of the call she informed me that it was so nice to be able to speak to someone who does not judge her or wants to offer advice. She openly discusses her thoughts with me. She has told me that she is so happy that she can receive these calls as she feels totally isolated and alone.
I received a text from her thanking me and that she is really looking forward to receiving another call on Monday. Because of her drug abuse and mental health, she will remain with me.
Jepsy speaks in broken English as she is Spanish. She joined back in October 2020. She has a young family so does up to 3 calls a week. Jepsy has grown in confidence and has no problems communicating with the participants. Her English is improving all the time and she is really enjoying the conversations. She has one participant who she calls weekly and two others which she alternates. “Was able to speak with MW, she was very happy and we were talking about her daughter’s profession, and she also told me about the coronavirus vaccine, Mrs. MW has an amazing memory, because she remembers many things, when I told her she laughed a lot.”
Jepsy continues to call participants and even with the added pressure of home schooling, she is still keeping consistent with a few calls and looks forward to increasing when things return to some degree of normality.
By Jane Owen, Volunteer Coordinator
This volunteer started her volunteering with us back in the first lockdown. She had a very traumatic experience in her life and this still impacts on her daily life. She was allocated a lady to call who has severe mental health issues, schizophrenia and severe depression. After the first call of the week, the volunteer found out that this lady was very much on a down with her depression. Because of this the volunteer rang her every day just to enquire how she was. It was only after the fact that the volunteer called me to inform that she had kept in touch with this lady during the week. Because of the volunteers past and the calls made to the participant the volunteer found her own past intruding on her again and called me. As I had recently completed the mental first aid course, and because of my background I was able to offer the volunteer the support needed and followed up with a phone call to the participant who was so grateful that she had someone to talk too outside of her professional support.
The following day I received a lovely email from the volunteer;
Thank you for your much appreciated support yesterday. I hope you too have someone you can turn to if you ever need to.’
Susan originally came through to us from RDASH and was their first referral into the friendship calls. Susan is a very complicated case in that she is currently undergoing a transition from male to female. Suffers with affective schizophrenia, has delusions and Asperger’s syndrome. Susan has no confidence in herself or in the system and feels that she is often persecuted because of her choices. She has been ostracised by her family and has no friends. She doesn’t go out except when necessary to get food etc. My initial conversation with Susan went very well, and she did respond to me albeit a little guarded. Her comment was that it was going to be lovely to be able to speak to someone on a friendly level and hoped that I would ring her back. I followed up with a report back to the referrer from RDASH, which prompted a response thanking me for my professionalism and for taking Susan on, this has been discussed with the referrers other colleagues and has resulted in us starting to get more referrals from them.
I followed up a week later with another call to Susan who was totally surprised to hear from me saying that she did not expect me to call her back, and I explained that I enjoyed talking with her and that she would always get a call from me every week. She was so touched and after having a great chat about food, dreams and the general state of affairs, she burst into tears and thanks me profusely at the end of the call for just treating her like a normal person. I made arrangement to follow up again a week later. This week, she was so much more open with me and has started to trust me now by sharing her session with me that she had with her psychiatrist. This was a massive step for Susan who does not like talking about her issues due to not being able to trust anyone. We are now building a steady relationship and her trust and confidence is increasing.
I have known Peter for a couple of years now as her originally wanted to volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Society, but he found the training to be too daunting and he dropped out. Peter is a highly intelligent man that used to be a chemical engineer for TATA steel. He started to develop mental health issues, ODC and other problems and had to give up his job. He is an avid painter. He lost all of his confidence and was worried when he approached me again as a volunteer. After offering him reassurance that the training and induction was a lot easier than previously – he decided to give the friendship call volunteer role a go with a lot of support from me. He was extremely nervous to make his first calls, so we allocated Peter people that we thought he would find easy to communicate with. After his first calls, he rang me and was so proud of what he had achieved, he couldn’t stop saying what it meant to him to be able to give something to people and that he had an enjoyed it more than he expected. He immediately build a rapport with one of his service users, so much so that after a follow up with her, she has asked if he could continue calling her as she found him to be such a lovely person ‘he feels like an angel to me, and I am sure if I met him, he would be wearing a halo’ I reported back to Peter what had been said, and he was so happy so say that he would be very willing to continue calling this lady and they are now building a great relationship and Peter’s confidence is growing from strength to strength.