Team: Community Support
What brought you to volunteer with EPC?
Anne: I saw that EPC needed volunteers and thought oh, I’d like to do that! so I applied. I have a nursing background and knew the work wouldn’t faze me too much.
Pam: Anne was telling me about EPC and, as I also am a retired nurse, I thought, I’ll apply too. So here we are! We were both in the same training group and now we support each other.
What’s the best thing about volunteering with EPC?
Anne: Well, I think the staff are just fantastic, they give us so much back-up when we have problems. I’ve never come across an organisation that offers such consistent support for our welfare.
Pam: I agree. A lot of people ask, how can you do this work? But I just love going out to families and feeling that I am contributing in some way, plus their carers get some much needed time out. And clients are so trusting of us because at the beginning we are just strangers who walk into their house.
What are the challenging aspects?
Anne: One day, my client sat there enjoying his Minties – he was trying to get me to eat them – and I said, ‘Oh no! They are your favourites!’ After my visit I asked his son, ‘When would you like me to come back? He said, ‘Maybe next week.’ I rang and was told he had died the night before.
Pam: We have to throw our ‘nursing hats’ away but we are happy to be volunteers.
Anne: I had a younger client who liked me to take her out shopping but, after a while, I could see that her condition was deteriorating. One day she gave me a big hug and said, ‘I want you to come to my funeral because my family are going to have a big party.’ She actually rang EPC and thanked every member of staff who had looked after her.
Why do you continue?
Pam: On fine days one of my clients would say in his strong Swedish accent, ‘Pam, let’s go out!’ He’d been a bricklayer and built his own beautiful house. Going down the streets he’d say, ‘Pam, just look at that house!’ and we would critique the brickwork. It was hilarious. You learn a lot through your clients. I had another client who wanted to go lawn bowling. I said, ‘I’m not a bowler, I have no idea how to play!’ but my volunteer coordinator reassured me that my client didn’t either. A man who was watching us ‘trying to play’ came up and asked, ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘We are training for the Olympics!’ I informed him. ‘But who are you, really?’ he insisted. We told him we were from EPC and then he showed us how to play properly and we had such a great time!
Anne: I would sit with my lovely client and watch the worst TV shows ever – like Storage Wars and all this stuff about catching caribou in Canada. She virtually sat in a chair and didn’t move. I was going on holiday and thinking I don’t think she’ll be here when I get back. My client knew that and when I went to say goodbye to her she stood up, took my hand and thanked me. Her husband sent a letter, written from the heart, saying he really appreciated that he had been able to go out for a few hours whilst I sat with his wife and watched TV with her.
Pam: I had a client who didn’t speak much English. She was a very proud woman who didn’t originally want me in the house but needed respite. Her daughter went shopping and said, ‘Thank heavens you’ve come!’ – her mum was a strong person but I got on with her like a house on fire. When her daughter came home we were laughing and her daughter commented, ‘Mum hasn’t laughed the whole time I’ve been staying here!’
Anne: I just love it. If I didn’t do the work I would really miss it. I help with driving people to their medical appointments too. They really appreciate the service and we always have a laugh. We often have a great bond.