Sharon’s volunteering story
Sharon volunteers for Care for the Carers’ Carers in Touch service, which offers phone calls to carers so that they can stay connected and feel less isolated. Sharon has been a carer herself and has experienced being cared for by her daughter following a car accident. We asked Sharon about her volunteering role.
Why did you want to volunteer for Care for the Carers?
I had used Care for the Carers’ service myself, and I wanted to give back to reach somebody else. My daughter had to care for me after my car accident, she was only 18 years old at the time. Care for the Carers supported my daughter. I couldn’t work and was in a lot of pain and on medication, and they signposted me to charities and places to help. We went down a huge journey and Care for the Carers made a huge impact on our lives.
I have Fibromyalgia and ongoing health issues, and I feel that I have turned a corner and I can now give help for others.
What you do in your volunteering role.
What you do in your volunteering role?
I set aside Thursday afternoons to volunteer. It is so rewarding when I am speaking with a carer. I know how lost they can feel and how hard it can be. I put them in touch with people and organisations that can help them.
I talk to a number of carers on calls about anything they need help with. You can gauge that some people need more time to open up and talk to you. Some carers like to know about me so it is a conversation. I have been through a lot in my life and I can empathise with them. When I open up myself to a carer, they feel relaxed and safe to talk to me.
How do you think it helps the carers that you speak to?
Some carers say that we (the volunteers) are the only people that they speak to and it makes them feel they’re not alone. It can be easier to talk to a stranger because their family don’t understand.
Carers like to just talk so that they don’t have to deal with the situation all the time. It is good to know that I can reach out and there is comfort, and they know someone wants to listen to them. I know how that feels as I have lived alone for five years. My relationships have broken down, and I have changed and pushed myself and been through a lot, mentally, physically and emotionally. I can identify with and I understand when carers say they are lonely.
At times I talk about the weather, and I ask questions about what they have been doing, and then carers start to open up. Some carers will talk about being tired. Some carers feel lonely, especially those who are looking after someone with dementia as they talk about caring for someone they don’t know at all and being at home with a stranger. After the end of one call, it was fun and she said thank you so much. I felt privileged.
My conversations allow carers to talk. I like to know that they have eaten, have other support and that their mental health is stable. These are my three checkpoints that I gauge from the calls I make, and then I know that they are OK and that they are looking after themselves. There are times when I ask if they need help or support.
What do you like about volunteering?
I never know what calls I am going to get, so I can’t really prepare for them. When I get off the phone, there is satisfaction that I have been there for someone and it is really rewarding. Someone could be at the end of their tether and I have made a difference to them.
What do you get out of volunteering for yourself?
Volunteering makes me feel more grounded and balanced as a person, no matter what I am going through, and that somebody may be going through something else.
I feel that volunteering could be the first stage to going to back to work, putting me on that platform and commitment to doing something, and also getting my body used to doing something. I would like to do part-time work for sure, and it is really rewarding to know that I am doing this. If I get a part-time job, I will know that I did it and smile.
What would you say to someone who is thinking of volunteering?
Take your time, relax and enjoy it and learn as you go along. When I first started, I was scared that I would get it wrong and not be able to do it; and now it is normal and easy.
Volunteering is the most rewarding thing that you can do for yourself and it impacts others. It is the most selfless act you can do and most beautiful thing you can do. I have a sign in my house that says, `Only when we are lost can we find ourselves again.’ And it is by the light switch, so I see it when I switch the light on.
Volunteer with us
We want to say a huge thank you to Sharon and all of our volunteers for giving their time and skills and supporting carers. If you’re interested in volunteering with us, we have a range of roles you may be interested in. Please contact us for further information. You can also read Lauren’s story who volunteers with us.
Carers in Touch service
The Carers in Touch service is a phone-listening service for isolated, unpaid carers. The service was started during the pandemic, as it was apparent many carers were being left to manage alone with little or no outside contact.
Carers receive regular calls from a team of trained volunteers, and it is a chance for carers to chat about whatever they want to talk about. Topics are varied and can include the issues the carer is facing, a chance to offload their worries and also an opportunity to talk about something completely different and have a light hearted conversation. Volunteers enjoy discussing music, gardening, travel, pets, the latest TV programmes, as well as numerous other subjects. If you are a carer and would like to receive a listening call, please contact us for further information.
Find out more about Volunteers’ Week here.