Erin lives in Inverness, Scotland, with her family and works as a Customer Consultant for Yorkshire Building Society. She also volunteers as a community champion at the bank which involves organising staff volunteering and charitable donations. Re-engage received a £1,500 donation from the Yorkshire Building Society Charitable Foundation with the help of Erin who put forward our charity for consideration. We’re very grateful to Erin for the part that she played in making this happen.
As a call companion, Erin makes regular phone calls to an isolated and lonely older person. She told us that simply listening, and allowing another person to be heard, can make a real difference.
A few days after we first caught up with Erin, she learned the sad news that the older person she had been a companion to had passed away. Erin will continue volunteering with the charity and will be matched with a new call companion.
Why did you decide to volunteer for Re-engage?
I have an older neighbour who I speak to in his garden every other day. During the pandemic, he was considered vulnerable and had to isolate, so he only saw me and his family from the garden. I did a bit of research and came across Re-engage and saw what a difference the charity makes to the lives of lonely and isolated older people.
You started volunteering in January of this year, how are you finding the experience so far?
It’s been rewarding. I was quite nervous about calling a stranger for the first time and I wondered what we would talk about. Luckily, the lady I was matched with loved to chat and had amazing stories to tell. We would talk about what was what was going on in our lives, stories from the past, and our interests. We developed a bond very quickly.
How do you fit volunteering around your day job working at the bank?
I’m always able to fit my calls around my work schedule and to agree a mutually convenient time with the older person I speak to. So far this has worked well and it's been easy to make calls in my lunch break.
What skills or new knowledge have you learned since becoming a call companion?
I’ve learned to listen to others properly – it has a real impact on others when you can listen to them, understand and let them be the focus of your attention. The training provided by Re-engage was invaluable and prepared me for how to deal with all sorts of scenarios.
What other interests do you have?
I’m the type of person who has many different interests and hobbies. I suppose I go through phases, but at the end of the day I just like to learn new skills. I’ve been known to take up football, kung fu and even painting. I watch a lot of TV series and I love reading - mainly thrillers and mysteries. I’m a traveller too and I’ve got a bucket list of places I’d love to go to.
What would you say to anyone who was thinking about becoming a volunteer?
It’s so rewarding to know what a difference you can make. I meet a lot of older customers through my work at the bank and hearing how lonely they felt during the pandemic made me realise how fortunate I had been. As a call companion you form a very close bond with the person you are matched with. My weekly calls have been so interesting too and I’ve learned a lot from taking the time to listen to someone else’s stories. If you’re thinking about doing it, I say go for it! It’s amazing how a simple call can make such a difference.
A volunteer's journey
Deborah first started volunteering for Re-engage in 1988 when she was living in London, working as a personal assistant for a head-hunter in Maida Vale. Over the years she has volunteered as a tea party driver, host and group coordinator. Today, at 61, as a host for her local tea party group in Bristol, she share her memories of volunteering with us.
Meet rainbow call companion Julian
Julian, 47, a hospitality business consultant who lives in Southsea is one of our first rainbow call companion volunteers. Julian is happily married and has friends and family around him. He told us that, by becoming a rainbow call companion, he hopes to give something back to a generation that may have felt less fortunate.