Support Us

“I’ve realised I’m capable of things I wasn’t so sure about”

Maria’s Volunteering Story

Maria has been volunteering at Guideposts’ CONNECT group in Whitminster each week for 15 months. She also volunteers a foodbank, and for the Cinnamon Trust, where she cares for dogs if their owner is in hospital. Maria previously worked for the RSPCA for 12 years, and saw a post about CONNECT on social media after retiring.

Two older women enjoy crafts at CONNECT.
CONNECT members enjoy conversation and crafts

“The post just popped up on my social media feed and I saw they were looking for volunteers. I liked the sound of connecting isolated and vulnerable people. I’d never worked with older people before but gave it a go, and after a few sessions, I found I loved it. It’s been great.”

Over the coming months, Maria became an indispensable part of CONNECT.

“A typical session varies from week to week. There’s a real variety of activities. I help set up the cake and refreshments (the most important things!) before members arrive. Then the first hour might be spent discussing and reminiscing. There’s always a lot of laughter! I chat to everyone, make sure everyone is ok, and then we start an activity. Crafts and flower arranging are particular favourites.”

Flower arranging with bright yellow flowers at CONNECT.
Maria ensures there’s never a shortage of creative activities for CONNECT members

Sharing Knowledge

Maria and fellow volunteer Angela both have a background in dental care. At the request of a 90 year old CONNECT member, they gave a talk on oral health a few weeks ago.

“One of the ladies requested it. She prefers talks to crafts. We gave a talk on tooth health and handed out samples and leaflets. Everyone found it very useful. We’ve had talks on safety too. One of my friends is a police officer and gave a talk on security and scams. Lots of our members live alone so keeping safe is very important.”

Finding the Spark

One of the most rewarding things one can experience as a volunteer is to help someone else find their spark.

Richard attends CONNECT with his wife Margie. He has Alzheimer’s and is usually very quiet. One week, Maria was able to engage him in hearty conversation. It was the first time the group had heard his voice.

“I found out Richard and Margie used to grow dahlias and show them, too. I said I found them difficult to grow and Richard immediately lifted his head and started giving me tips! Something set off a spark and he was chatting away so enthusiastically. It was absolutely wonderful to see. He left with the biggest smile.

“That’s the beauty of being a volunteer. You get to know members really well and you can find ways to interact with them all. We all took such an interest in what Richard was saying and it revived something in him. He spends most of his time at home with his wife, and they had grown the dahlias together, so it wasn’t really something they still spoke about. But talking about the dahlias to someone new sparked something in him. I came away that day feeling like I’d made a difference.”

Two friends smiling at CONNECT.
Meeting new people is a joy for CONNECT members and volunteers

Leaving the Comfort Zone

When Maria first started volunteering at CONNECT, she was a little uncertain. Although she was very used to meeting people through her previous work, it was always in one-to-one situations, rather than on groups.

“I was shy when I was younger. Even now, I sometimes feel a little self conscious. It took me a few sessions to get used to the feeling of being in a group of new faces. The fact I’m now comfortable enough to give talks in front of the group is a real achievement. I’ve learnt so much through volunteering here. I’ve realised I’m capable of things I wasn’t sure about before. I’ve realised I’m capable of things I wasn’t sure about before. I’ve surprised myself.”

Maria’s Advice

“I would say if you’re unsure about volunteering, just go for it and you’ll probably love it. Be as open as you can, don’t feel self-conscious, and get chatting. For a lot of our members, coming to CONNECT is the only time they see someone all week. Show a genuine interest, give them your full attention, and really listen. You’ll be well on your way then!

I think volunteering is especially good if you’re feeling down or anxious. They say if you’re not feeling your best, the best thing you can do is help someone else. It makes you feel good about yourself and really boosts your confidence.”

A game of Boccia at CONNECT

Want to try Volunteering?

Guideposts thrives on the wonderful contributions of our volunteers. We pride ourselves on welcoming volunteers from all walks of life, and think we have an opportunity for everyone to get involved too, regardless of interest or experience.

You can volunteer in our outdoor services, at our services for those living with mental health needs, learning disabilities, dementia or isolation, or even from home through Zoom. We hope you’ll take a look at our volunteering opportunities and consider joining the Guideposts team.

Comments are closed.