For International Women's Day 2020, we chatted to volunteer host Ruth about her early years as a Scout, overcoming difficulty and why she'd never go on Bake Off.
Growing up, my family was heavily involved in Scouting - My dad was a Scout leader, Mum was a cub leader, my brother is still heavily involved with the Scouts. So from a baby, I’ve been brought up in the Scout movement. When I was old enough I became an assistant Scout cub leader, I was always volunteering in some way.
Sadly, I lost both my parents when I was in my twenties and that kind of knocked it on the head for me, there were just too many memories. But when I saw Re-engage (then Contact the Elderly) mentioned in a magazine back in 2015, I liked the sound of it. It was also a good excuse to bake - Particularly as, although I like baking cakes, I’m not a huge fan of eating them!
I applied but just before the group coordinator was due to visit me, I found out I’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 44 years old at the time, under the age for mammograms but the diagnosis was positive. Of course, everything just went on hold at that point because I didn’t know what kind of treatment I was going to need. I'm proud to say that I did beat it. And as soon as I finished surgery and radiotherapy, I signed up again and held my first tea party for my Preston group in January 2017.
It’s nice to host tea parties and spend time with a generation that you wouldn’t often get to meet.
I’m glad I got the chance to get involved with Re-engage. I come from quite a small family, I had only one set of grandparents and lost them when I was quite young. As I also lost my parents when I was younger, I’ve lost that connection with the older generation, probably a lot younger than many people do. It’s nice to host tea parties and spend time with a generation that you wouldn’t often get to meet. The guests in my group always have lots of interesting stories to tell about their lives, which my partner and I really enjoy hearing. It’s such a worthwhile thing to do, I just love being a part of it.
I also fundraise for Breast Cancer Now for their annual bake sale. Every July, BCN hold a special bake sale that takes place in your home. I open my house from 11am-8pm and more than 100 people pop in through the day to buy some cakes. People keep saying ‘You going to go on Bake Off’? Definitely not! I can’t follow a recipe, I’m one for making things up!
I can be baking for up to 16 hours to prepare for the sale and organise a raffle with prizes donated by local businesses to raise a bit more money. It’s a hectic day but I’m absolutely amazed at the end of the night when everybody’s gone and we count up all the money. I’m just so appreciative and surprised by how supportive friends, family, colleagues are.
Although tough times do come along, you are stronger than you think you are.
I had a pretty tough journey, I experienced loss at a fairly young age, I’ve gone through cancer which was very tough, especially without my mum here anymore, I could’ve really done with her at the time. So I think although tough times do come along, you are stronger than you think you are. Be open to new experiences, you might find things that you enjoy that you haven’t contemplated. Remember, things will get always better.
We ask at all times that our volunteers, staff, and guests bear in mind the health of all members of our groups.
James and Emma on volunteering as driver & host
Volunteer couple James and Emma tell us about their Re-engage journey, volunteering with kids and what they would tell their younger selves about love.