Volunteering for Care for the Carers- guest blog from Carmen Dupre
31 May 2022
Claire’s volunteering story
By Carmen Dupre
Our Social Media Volunteer, Carmen speaks to one of our Carers in Touch volunteers, Claire about her volunteering journey with us.
Claire, has just moved to Brighton and joined us in January to volunteer for our Carers in Touch service, which offers phone calls to carers so that they can stay connected and feel less isolated.
Claire has previously worked as a yoga teacher and massage therapist, which have both centred around helping people to stay happy and healthy, and she has been able to continue this through Carers in Touch. We asked Claire about her volunteering role.
How did you start volunteering with Care for the Carers?
Like many of our volunteers, Claire has had firsthand experience as an unpaid carer. It was this, as well as experiencing a lack of resources for unpaid carers in her area, that motivated Claire to reach out to volunteer with us.
‘Being a carer myself made me realise just how important services for carers are. Between your caring duties you spend so much time dealing with the administrative side of being a carer trying to get support, whether that’s through filling in paperwork or on hold to someone. It leaves you with no time to talk to the person right in front of you, who you’re trying to care for, and you lose out on precious time with that person because of it.
I had just relocated to Brighton after my parents passed. I’ve been able to give myself a new start after caring, but I know that there are many of us who are unable to do so. With all my jobs I’m trying to make the world a better place in different ways, and it’s the same with my volunteering.’
What do you do in your volunteer role?
I volunteer on Thursdays with the Carers in Touch calling service. We work through a list of carers who have requested a call – we always ask at the end of the call when a carer would next like to speak to us, and this can range between anywhere from 2 weeks to a couple of months. It’s not the same volunteer speaking to the same carer every time, it usually changes each time.
We use a centralised system, so everyone’s personal information is protected, and something that’s been impactful is that after each call we are taken into a debrief meeting afterwards, where we can talk about anything that has affected us personally and lean on each other for support.
When I’m speaking to carers, I always try to get them talking about themselves. It’s so easy to talk about the person you’re caring for; and it’s good to talk about, but afterwards I like to ask people about their own life, their hobbies, and desires. It can be easy for carers to get shoehorned into focusing on the person they’re caring for and their conditions, so when someone is caring for their spouse, for instance, I try to ask them questions about the relationship to bring out the fonder memories. When did your eyes first meet? What was it like before? If I’ve come off the phone and they’ve opened up or remembered something they hadn’t thought about for a while, it’s something to be cherished. It’s an honour.
What’s something that’s surprised you during your time volunteering?
How lovely everyone from Care for the Carers has been. It has been so inspiring working with a team of staff and volunteers so passionate about what they do. Everyone always puts in the effort to have light conversations and find the time to laugh with each other. It’s a supportive environment.
How has your experience as a carer impacted your experience as a volunteer?
It has been a huge honour. I have experienced being a carer myself and the loneliness that can come with it. Caring is the hardest job in the world. But it is also a great honour in the sense that it deepens you in every way, especially in terms of your day-to-day relationships. I have really blossomed as a teacher and as a friend, especially in terms of empathy.
A lot of the people we talk to ask to hear from us as much as possible, which is testament to the feelings of loneliness and isolation that come with caring, especially since the pandemic. Even if you’re with someone physically, caring can still feel like mourning. You’re still alone. Being available to carers in this time is crucial. Humanity connects in its darkest moments, and we’re all constantly learning as human beings.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of joining us as a volunteer?
When you’re having a conversation, be brave and honest so that we can connect, help and learn from each other. Intense feelings shouldn’t be avoided; they are difficult and wonderful. Reject the ‘I’m fine’ of it all after you’ve had a difficult conversation. Just feel what you’re feeling, share it with other people and encourage the carers you’re speaking with to do the same.
Thank you Carmen and Claire for sharing this story.
Volunteer with us
We want to say a huge thank you to Claire 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. You can learn more here or contact us for further information on email@example.com
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 on 01323 738390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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