I was lucky enough to be able to retire early at 57, wanting to spend more time on my hobbies and interests. But I also wanted to give something back to Brighton and Hove, the town (sorry, city!) that brought me up.
I already knew about the Neighbourhood Care Scheme, a voluntary organisation which puts people in touch with others needing support in their local area. Usually volunteers are matched with people living near them and visit the same person regularly, but being a practical person I offered to work across the whole city, doing those little jobs that many people find difficult, especially older people and those with disabilities.
Volunteering isn’t something you can just take on casually for a short time. I was interviewed, gave references, did induction training and had to be checked for any convictions, as I would be working with vulnerable people. At first it seemed very similar to the world of work which I had only just left! Yes, there are still responsibilities, but I’m free to work at my own pace, the staff are all really committed and supportive, and the people I help are friendly and grateful. I’ve got to say that this wasn’t always the case with some of the paid jobs I’ve had!
The people I’ve helped have been of all ages, from twenties to nineties, and in many different situations, sometimes quite stressful ones. Some jobs I take on are just one-off, but some I now visit regularly whenever support is needed. The staff have got to know that I’m good with computers, so I now get regular requests for help in that area. One of the most rewarding jobs I’ve done was to set up a disabled man’s PC for internet shopping, so that he didn’t have to rely on friends and relatives. After a little bit of support and encouragement to get him started, he can now choose and order his own shopping to be delivered, giving him some of his independence back. It’s little successes like this that remind you that you can make a difference to someone’s life, and that’s a very rewarding feeling.
This was written by Chris Barfield, an NCS volunteer, and published for Befriending Week 2015.
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