Linda, 76, joined her local activity group in her hometown of Penarth in the Vale of Glamorgan as a guest and she liked it so much that she is now the group coordinator.
Group coordinators need to be organised. As a former operational manager with a therapy centre in Cardiff, treating children with cerebral palsy, she has great experience to bring to the role.
Linda may be retired, but she likes to keep busy with volunteering and recently completed an Open University degree focusing in health and social care. Fortunately, we found space in her diary for this catch up.
Unusually you are both a guest and a volunteer, can you tell us how that came about?
Well, I signed up as a guest four or five months ago, as it's a lovely reason to get out of the house once a month.
When Re-engage said they needed help to organise the group I thought I don’t mind, I’m an admin person and I’ve done quite a bit of volunteering since I retired. The role involves making calls the week before each session to see who's coming, checking the venue, handing out labels and things like that.
What sort of activities take place?
There is a fabulous lady, Rachel, who used to be a dancer,and she gets everyone moving in dance sessions. She has been the activity lead at a few of the monthly events.
One month we played cornhole instead, which everyone enjoyed. We were in two teams and you had to throw a bean bag and aim to get it into a hole on the board. It got quite competitive, but was a lot of fun.
The group is interested in trying other things. Before the pandemic some of the guests did a pottery course in one session and there is quite a bit of interest in tai chi, which I already do each week.
Do the guests get to know each other?
Yes, we sit around a big table with a cup of tea or coffee and everyone chats to different people - it's a lovely atmosphere.
In fact, sometimes I have to say come on, Rachel wants to start the dancing, as everyone is enjoying a good old natter.
What does being involved in an activity group mean to you
Well, I’ve met new people and it's another outlet for socialising which I like doing. Other guests have said it’s become a lifeline for them, they all love it. It is has also been a chance to meet with people in the town we live in, to reconnect with them and hear all the news.
The volunteering side is an opportunity to use my organisational skills to help and I feel as if I’m doing something useful by chatting with people and seeing how they are.
Who else attends the group?
The group has about 18 members. Most of them are ladies, but there are two gentleman who come along and they sit toether and have a chat, which is good.
What’s your favourite activity?
I am a bit restricted in my movement, but I love the dancing. Rachel puts on music that we can sing along to, for example from South Pacific. So we sing whilst we move and the gentle routines can be done standing or sitting.
What would you say to others about being part of a group like this?
Come along, enjoy yourself and meet people from different walks of life. It gives you something to look forward to.
I know people aren’t always confident about coming to a group like this. But in my experience of volunteering, once someone has come along for the first time they absolutely love it.
I would say to anyone thinking of volunteering that it gives you a sense of worth, whilst not taking too much time. You're doing something productive, not just for yourself, but by helping lonely and older isolated people.
A pudding fit for a queen.
In honour of the Queen in her Platinum Jubilee year, Fortnum and Mason launched a nationwide competition to find a recipe for a pudding fit for a queen. Jemma Melvin's recipe for Lemon Swiss Roll and Amaretti Trifle was awarded the title of “platinum pudding” for the this month's jubilee celebrations.
Meet call companion Erin
Becoming aware of how isolated an older neighbour felt during the pandemic prompted 21-year-old Erin to get in touch with Re-engage. Today, Erin is one of our call companion volunteers and a wonderful example of the positive impact of bringing different generations together.