We’re always impressed with our brilliant volunteers but, over these past few weeks, we’ve been blown away by their incredible care and commitment.
In normal times, thousands of our volunteers across the UK host and support monthly Sunday tea parties.
These warm, joyful events are attended by small groups of guests in their late 70s to 90s - and even older - who would never otherwise have the chance to go out and socialise in this way.
Tragically, the current lockdown has forced us to suspend these much-loved events, leaving our vulnerable guests, already chronically lonely, at serious risk.
But they haven’t been alone. Our dedicated volunteers have stepped up, organising telephone rotas between them to make sure everyone is well looked after and receiving regular phone calls.
Our guests tell us how much it lifts their spirits when the phone rings and they know someone's thinking of them.
These calls are providing such a lifeline that we’ve now launched a new call companion service. We want to reach many more people in this age group who live alone and would enjoy a regular friendly chat over the phone.
We’ve been inundated with volunteer applications from members of the public eager to get involved.
All of this means that, for us, celebrating Volunteers’ Week this week has never felt so meaningful. The passion and generosity of spirit we've witnessed from our volunteers during this crisis has been hugely inspiring.
We also asked some of our volunteers why they love giving their time for our cause. Here are just a few of the many beautiful responses we received:
Kate, from Bristol, who started volunteering three years’ ago, said, “My husband and children recently joined me on a call with one of our guests Ken, aged 95. They loved hearing his stories about how he was a tail gunner in a Halifax bomber during the latter years of the war. I absolutely love volunteering for the charity and will continue to do so for a very long time to come.”
Meanwhile, Shonagh, who volunteers in Carnoustie in Scotland, said, “One of my favourite memories was when two guests realised they had lived in the same street for 35 years but never met. It made me realise we were doing more than offering people tea and cake - we were connecting people.”
Group coordinator, Bob, who’s in Doncaster, said, “I’m so pleased to have formed and maintained a close group of friends - guests and volunteers - who are now supporting each other through lockdown.”
And Sandy, from Pembrokeshire in Wales, told us, “The benefits have been enormous for myself and the whole group. We’ve listened to one another and comforted each other and become lifelong friends.”
If you, or anyone you know, would like a new friend to talk to, one of our lovely volunteer call companions can phone every week or two for a friendly chat.
We’ll do our best to pair people up carefully and thoughtfully so the conversation flows and the friendship blossoms.
Because if there’s one thing we’ve learnt from this lonely, frightening crisis, it’s that there’s nothing more important than a good, loyal, supportive friend.
And our volunteers are the best.
'You get to have a real chat'
Trudy, 88, who tragically lost her brother to Coronavirus in June, talks about the loneliness of lockdown and the joy of a phone call from someone who cares.
'I keep the radio on just to hear another voice'
Having been desperately lonely for years, *Patrick, 78, describes how the lockdown is making life harder.