Meet the Volunteers: Jazmin

If you were at our Launch Event on 15th July you may have met one of our newest volunteers, Jazmin, handing out much appreciated Pimm’s to the walkers, cyclists and kayakers as they arrived at the event. She’s going to be helping us out with fundraising and other things, alongside her full time job.  At just 26, Jazmin is a real spring chicken in our volunteer team, so when I met her I was really interested to find out what appealed to her about volunteering with us.  When she told me her story, I asked her to write it up so that we could share it with others who might have had similar experiences – she’s certainly not the first volunteer we’ve met who has wished they’d known about us sooner!!

jazmin smith

It all started on a double decker bus. As I sat on one of the familiar striped chairs I noticed her. Dark tired skin and long dark hair with silver highlights. It looked like it hadn’t seen a hair brush in a while but she did a brilliant job with her fingers. Every now and then a delicate plait would emerge.

As we made eye contact I said hello (I have always been a chatter box). We got talking. Sadly, I discovered she had had a hard life. She told me that she now lived alone in a meadow and that her children did not want anything to do with her. She told me she was scared and alone.

I felt for her right down to my soul.

She held my hand in hers. I still remember her papery thin hands, her nails dark from picking flowers in her meadow (or so she told me). She told me I was her angel.

At this point I wanted to do all I could for this woman. I wanted to change her life. In that split-second I envisioned re-homing her, talking with her family, mediating them back together and having the pleasure of watching her flourish back into the lady I had heard all about, through her memories.

Without a doubt in my mind I got my phone out and gave her my mobile number. I told her that I was always there to talk and I would help her in any way I could.

Cut to a week or so later. It’s 3am and I am in bed. My phone rings and I immediately answer. The person on the other end of the line is not making much sense and I don’t recognise their voice. I check the number and realise it is not a family member or friend and come to the conclusion that I am probably being prank called.

This happens nightly for the following week. The same soul crushing incoherent screams echoing down the phone. At the mention of her meadow it clicked. This was the lonely lady from the bus.

I asked her to meet me but she wasn’t able to listen to me long enough to hold a proper conversation. After about a week or so I think she grew frustrated with me. I couldn’t understand her screams and I had no idea what to do to help her. I hated that all I could do was add to her obvious pain and frustration.

Now throw yourself spinning, cartwheeling into the future. 10 years into the future to be exact.

I’m sat with the Chloe, the Manager of Volunteering in Health. We have met to discuss how I could help with their charity. Chloe asked why I wanted to volunteer: was it to learn new skills, to meet like-minded people or had I been affected by something myself?

I told her the truth. It was for all of the above but mainly because I like to help others. For some reason, the lady on the bus came to my mind. I told Chloe about her. As I told her about how awful it felt not to be able to help, Chloe sympathetically nodded her head and said:

“Imagine if you had known about us, you could have given her our details. We would have been able to connect her to our network of staff and volunteers that would have been able to offer her the support she so desperately needed. It wouldn’t all have been on your shoulders.”

My mind was blown. Something so simple could have changed everything for this lady. This was when it hit me. I had to help this charity. Chloe and I discussed some of the many people they have managed to help and I felt a warmth surge through me.

I am now volunteering with the wonderful team at ‘Volunteering in Health’ to help them continue to make such a massive difference to people lives.

If you know someone that could benefit from our services, or if you would like to find out more about volunteering, please contact a member of the team on 01626 771695.

 

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Roundabout

Roundabout is a monthly talking magazine which is sent out to people with sight problems or those who are unable to hold a newspaper or magazine.  It is run by Hear and Now, a lottery funded project in Dawlish which also does a weekly talking newspaper.

Last week, we were interviewed by Roundabout to tell them more about the pen pal project we have been doing with Shaldon School.  You can listen to the interview here (the March edition, our bit is from 24 minutes in).

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Thank you to Jonathan and everyone at Roundabout for helping us promote this project, and to Dorith, Eugenia, Bea and Sadie-May for taking part in the interview.

Next up in the pen pal project, we are taking our clients into school again on the 30th March to share and compare memories on a range of topics, will be compiled in a book.  After that we will be working with local artist, Tim Starkey, to do portraits of each other.  These will be displayed at Funky Aardvark in Teignmouth throughout June.

If you would like to get involved in this project in any way, please contact us.

How do we help people? One example of how our many services can work together to support one person.

They say that the one thing you can always rely on is change. When someone’s health changes, the repercussions can be far-reaching; even the most capable person suddenly finds themselves in the humbling position of being the one asking for help, rather than offering it – perhaps for the first time in their adult life.

One such person, John Vaughan, is a well-known member of the local community, through his involvement with many local charities. At the age of 85, he is still going strong as the Vice Chair for Devon Senior Voice.  He  was the Chairperson for the local Breathe Easy group, part of the British Lung Foundation, for 8 years; a charity he became involved with after his wife was diagnosed with COPD.

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John with his wife, Norma

 

Throughout his life, John has been a keen horse rider (and still is), so when he went to the doctor in October 2016 with pain in his lower back, he didn’t think much of it – assuming it was related to his riding. But the next thing he knew, he’d been told he had cancer and needed to have a kidney removed.  After such an active life, this was a huge shock, and sent John into depression.

Whilst recovering in Dawlish Hospital, John met our Hospital Link Workers, who supported him and referred him to our Wellbeing Co-ordinators for ongoing support when he came home.  It was only when he came home from hospital that John really understood how poorly he was – but his main priority was making sure his much loved dog, Wesley, was looked after!  Volunteering in Health’s Wellbeing Co-ordinator, Jill Breyley, came to visit and support him.  Though John has many friends and a supportive family, he found Jill’s support invaluable: she helped him to sort through his paperwork, arranged for rails to be put up in the garden to make it easier for him to get out, and organised a cleaner from our Home Help Service to help out at home and walk the dog – a task John’s neighbour has now gladly taken on.

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Norma, John, Jill and Wesley

 

John told us, “I’m usually a cheerful, buoyant person, and used to being a leader, but after this happened I was suddenly flat on my back. I didn’t know how to handle it.  I was prepared for the physical effects, but not the psychological effects.  There were so many people coming in and out and I didn’t know who they were or why they were there.  Jill helped me to make sense of it all.  She was a terrific help.”

John’s wife, Norma, said, “We were devastated when we found out about the cancer. It was such a shock when he had always been so fit and healthy.  He was so lucky to get over it, but it was so worrying.  He was so different – he wouldn’t eat and lost a lot of weight.”

Our Wellbeing Co-ordinator Jill Breyley said, “John was my very first client when I started in this role. It is incredible to see the difference in him now compared to just four months ago and fantastic to see how well the new Wellbeing Co-ordinator role is working for real people.”

If you or someone you know would benefit from our support, please contact us.

Drive n Dine

Here at Volunteering in Health we do many social drives as well as medical. One big project is the monthly ‘Drive n Dine’ event at the Alice Cross Centre. This project involves people being picked up from their home, allowing people with poor mobility to be able to get out and meet people without the expense of a taxi. The clients get dropped off at the Alice Cross Centre where they have a 2 course meal and entertainment. We help at events like this because Loneliness has been linked to cognitive decline.

To us, our social drives are just as important as our medical drives. Many studies show that social interaction can make older people mentally and physically healthier. Social isolation frequently leads to depression and a myriad of other mental health issues like anxiety that increase the amount of extra support seniors need.   By just taking someone to the ‘Drive n Dine’ event once a month you can help lower their chances of dementia and depression. This will also give them something to look forward to. This lowers the strain on the NHS as they will be healthier and in this weather it is important to keep everyone warm and healthy, older people with no social interaction are  four times more likely to come down with cold symptoms than those with lots of social contacts.

Another plus side to social activities is that it has the potential to lower blood pressure and reduce their risk of cardiovascular problems and various forms of arthritis. This is usually because those who are socially engaged are also more physically active and are more likely to maintain a nutritious diet. Social activities can also help people reduce stress and anxiety, which is what ultimately, leads to lower blood pressure levels.

While lowering the risk of many physical problems, it also gives them the confidence they need to be able to get back in to making new friends.

The Alzheimer’s Society noted that remaining socially active may improve sleep quality as well. This is important, as getting a good night’s rest is key to avoiding conditions like depression and anxiety, which people with dementia tend to be more vulnerable to. 

Positive indicators of social well-being may be associated with lower levels of age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer.

If you would like to come along to any of our social events, would like a befriender, or could volunteer as a driver or befriender, please get in touch!