Growing up, I was always close to my grandparents on both sides of my family. I was even lucky enough to have my great nan in my life until her early 90s.
With my ever-growing love for them, I even ended up living with one set. They became more than just my grandparents; they were the four people I was closest to.
This is where it all began.
In April 2020 I was furloughed from a large travel company, one month after starting a new role. Like everyone, I thought having more free time was brilliant. However, I also knew I needed to feel like I had a purpose; something to keep me going.
In June, I wrote out a list of all my interests; what I love doing and what I could carry on after furlough, whenever that was going to be. I wasn’t really looking for a volunteering role at the time, but when I saw a Re-engage social media post, I thought I’d have a nose.
The more I read about how the charity helps older people, the more I knew this was for me. Everything I love about life was right there, on their website.
I found there were two routes I could go down:
Call companion – Offering to be a listening ear over the phone to the over-75s
Call companion coordinator – Looking after a group of call companions and their matches.
I started off as a call companion, not knowing where it would take me. I told myself that all I had to do was chat to another person once a fortnight. How hard could it be?
I soon found myself out of my comfort zone, speaking to an older person who was three times my age. How would we ever find something in common? As a 25-year-old, I’m not always very confident. I need to ‘learn’ new tasks, soaking up new information like a sponge. But this wasn’t something I could learn.
I was 30 minutes into my first call and all I could think about were the awkward silences or what I should say next. The next day I had a call from my coordinator who told me that Ethel, my older lady, had really enjoyed the call and had nothing but positive feedback.
Nearly a year on and I still speak to Ethel regularly. Our relationship has blossomed into a friendship. Believe it or not, Ethel now knows about the highs and lows of my life, which sounds crazy, I know.
I didn’t stop there. I’m now a call companion coordinator too, looking after two call companion teams. That’s 14 volunteers, not to mention their matches, and some have two!
Now back in my full-time job, I couldn’t imagine being without my volunteering now. It’s so rewarding. Being a call companion doesn’t just help me get through the weeks, it helps others too.
Our online Tai Chi classes for older people
Lis Duffy is teaching weekly online Tai Chi classes to older people living in Wales.
Staff volunteer their time during pandemic
Cathy Walker from Pure Water put the company’s empty call centre to good use while staff were on furlough...