I worked as a nurse for 37 years, mostly in London, until about 18 months ago when I decided that it was time for a change. I now work in a library more local to where I live. This gave me a lot more leisure time. My hobbies include swimming, cycling, photography & travel.

When I changed jobs I decided to look around for volunteering opportunities. Being a swimming sidekick seemed perfect because I love swimming and the commitment was only a few hours a week which suited me very well. I had a little experience of working with people with a learning disability as a practice nurse though I don't think that it was vital.

I take Julie swimming once a week. She’s quite a good swimmer but there aren’t always enough staff to take her regularly, so my taking her every week frees up staff to do other things and allows Julie a regular swim. I think it helps her motivation too. Our trips are good exercise as well as a social outing! 

We go to the leisure centre and we go to the outdoor pool in the summer. I miss Judith when she goes on holiday…

- Julie

One week the pool was closed so we went to the local library. Julie was interested because she knew that I work in a library. She had no difficulty finding books that she liked so I helped her to join and she's been visiting with her key worker since. We often take a book along with us to read, or just to chat about while we have a coffee.

Judith helps me read the books. I liked The Pig Got Stuck and I read it to her. Having a volunteer made me feel happy. If it wasn’t for Judith…!

- Julie

The library runs a challenge called Reading Ahead for people who, for whatever reason, struggle with reading. The idea is to read 6 books and review them. Julie recently completed this and I was able to present her with a certificate.

Julie is good fun and our friendship is obvious and very rewarding.

Mencap staff are very supportive and have been so good at making me feel valued. I feel that, in a small way, I'm making a difference to someone's life. Volunteering can offer so many things, whether it's learning new skills, gaining confidence or giving something back to the community.

I like having a befriender. She’s lovely!

- Julie

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