Sharon first started volunteering as a tea party host in Fife, where she was born and raised - and she’s been hooked ever since.
Since the start of the pandemic, Sharon's volunteered as a call companion and a call coordinator, matching older people with volunteer call companions across the UK. Last year, she matched Elizabeth, who is in her 80s, with Emma, who is in her 20s.
Sharon (pictured right) says:
“It is a genuine privilege to play a small part in celebrating 50 years of Re-engage in Scotland. A part of history!
“I was always the pupil sent to the front of the class for talking at school, so being a call companion is ideal for me. I get to speak to people all over the UK and to hear about some of my old haunts from the days when I travelled and lived in England and Wales. It’s a small world!
“Elizabeth and Emma clicked straight away. They are a fantastic reminder that age is just a number and that that a meaningful relationship can also be just a phone call away. Elizabeth has also been supporting others in her local community by helping them sign up for call companions. I could not be prouder.
“I work full time and my volunteering fits perfectly around my day job. Our volunteers and older guests work together to make sure our calls are fitted around everyone’s needs; it’s a real team effort.
“Through my volunteering, I have the privilege of meeting some truly inspirational people. The past year has been incredibly difficult for everyone, especially for older people who have often been lonely and isolated. To have been part of a team of volunteers who have made such a difference is something I’ll never forget. A reminder that incredibly special things can happen in very dark times.
For me Reengage is a bit like Narnia. It is a wonderful place where people from all walks of life can work together to make life a bit better for everyone. Anyone can be part of Reengage, whether by phone or in person. There’s something for everyone."
Elizabeth and Emma
Elizabeth comes from a family of farmers. Her mother grew up on a farm and, the youngest of eight, she went on to marry a farmer herself. Housebound because of the pandemic and a long-term illness, Elizabeth got in touch with Re-engage because she was feeling lonely. A lover of the countryside, she and Emma, who also loves the outdoors, found they had plenty to talk about.
“I just wanted to have a regular chat with someone. Emma is in her twenties, and I couldn’t imagine how she would be interested in what someone my age had to say! But we chat for about an hour every week and she’s so lovely to talk to.
“After my husband passed away, I realised that I needed to get out and start making a life for myself and so I taught myself how to drive. I’ve always been someone who has a positive attitude to life.
“But I’ve felt lonely during the pandemic. I’m lucky to have wonderful views of the sea and the estuary from my room, and I can see the boats out in the bay, but I’ve really looked forward to my Sunday morning calls.
“Our calls made such a difference that I introduced a friend who has been ill and going through a tough time to Re-engage. He’s very pleased. I did almost think I might take on listening to someone else when I’m feeling better myself.”
Emma (pictured right with her dog) says:
“I love chatting to and meeting new people, so becoming a call companion for Re-engage seemed like the perfect opportunity for me, especially during lock down.
“Elizabeth and I were matched in August last year and she has bought a lot of positivity into my life. We’re both animal lovers and our calls give us both a chance to talk about the things that we really love in life. She gives me a break from day-to-day life, and I’ve come to I see her as a really close friend.
“She got me into watching Our Yorkshire Farm, a documentary series set on a remote farm in the Yorkshire Dales. We have so much in common that it’s actually quite strange! We just never run out of things to chat about.
“I’ve already recommended Re-engage to quite a few people and a colleague from work has signed up to volunteer. It’s not a big commitment, even if you’re a busy person, and the charity does such a good job of matching people with similar interests.
"It’s been wonderful to make a new friend in Elizabeth."
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Celebrating 50 years in Scotland
To celebrate our anniversary, our pioneering Area Organiser in Angus, Jean Malcolm, shares her experience of helping to build a flourishing Re-engage community there.