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, well under the age for mammograms but the diagnosis was positive. 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. I lost my parents when I was younger too, so I never got to have that connection with the older generation. It’s nice to host tea parties and spend time with a group that you wouldn’t often get to meet. Our older guests always have lots of interesting stories 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 fundraise for Breast Cancer Now for their annual bake sale every July. I open my house from 11am-8pm and more than 100 people pop in through the day to buy some cakes. People keep asking ‘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. Our guests and other volunteers also pop in and buy a cake or two, I’m always so appreciative of how supportive everyone is.

"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 hard, 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 a lot stronger than you think you are. Remember that things always get better and be open to new experiences. You might find things that you enjoy that you've never even thought of.

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