After I retired I knew I wanted to help people.
So when I came across Re-engage – or Contact the Elderly as it was known back then - I was really up for getting involved.
I helped set up a new tea party group in Croydon a few years ago, getting my friends to be hosts and drivers. It’s such a lively group - we all have such a good time whenever we meet. All the guests have lived such interesting lives. Us volunteers usually just sit back and listen to all their stories.
Two of our guests have passed away in the past couple of years and myself and a few other volunteers have attended their funerals. It always brings tears to my eyes, remembering how family members have mentioned us in their eulogies, saying how much their mother or grandmother enjoyed the tea parties; how much the afternoons with us meant to them.
It’s all you can hope for as a volunteer, that something you’ve done has made someone else happy.
When the tea parties were first suspended because of coronavirus, we decided to try a conference call instead.
One of our volunteers set us all up and we gave the guests instructions on how to take part. Most thought it would be too technical for them, but they all managed to get on the call.
It was a huge hit - like we were all sitting at our usual tea party with our eyes closed! It was lovely to hear all the guests chatting to each other. One had said she wouldn’t talk much as she felt shy but, there she was, chatting away! We agreed to do it again next month and the guests are really looking forward to it.
We’ve all become call companions while this crisis is going on. I speak to our guests regularly over the phone to see how they’re doing and if they need anything. They all tell us how wonderful their neighbours have been and how they’re not short on food.
But they do get lonely. One guest I spoke to told me she hadn’t used her voice in two weeks. She hadn’t spoken to a soul. How terrible is that?