Last year, I gave up work after 30 years with the same company to care for my late mother. After she passed away I had lots of free time. I enjoy walking and so I decided to join the Abingdon Health Walks. There I met Theresa from Mencap and within a few weeks I was volunteering on the walks. Since then I’ve become more and more involved.

I love walking around nature reserves, bird watching and looking at the wildlife there. I also enjoy crosswords, Sudoku puzzles and reading - usually “Chick Flick” type books!

What I do as a volunteer

Once a week I meet Jennifer at a local café and take her to the Abingdon Health Walks where we walk for an hour in a group of about 15. We chat as we walk - Jennifer is really interesting to talk to and has recently been teaching me to count to 10 in Latin. After the walk we have a coffee and I take her back to the bus.  

With Ian, who has MS, we have no set days, but it tends to be around once a week that we meet, when we want to. I may go with him on the bus for his therapy treatments, I may ‘walk’ with him into the local town so he can do some shopping, or go to the bank. This is weather permitting of course! Sometimes we just go out locally, as there are some lovely walks around where Ian lives. We both enjoy this, as I love to walk and Ian loves to be out in the fresh air. We have even been known to end up at the local pub!

At the monthly pub lunch, it is such a happy atmosphere. There are usually about 10 of us and everyone chats with each other, enjoying catching up with friends. As this is such a success, I am helping Keith - who I met on the Mencap Health Walks - to set up a monthly coffee and chat meeting in a local café. We’ve created flyers and are now getting the word out that our first meeting will be in June.

Mencap recently arranged for me to go on an afternoon course about Autism presented by Autistic people. This was really interesting and enlightening - I learnt so much and now understand their needs better.

Why I volunteer for Mencap

I had volunteered with adults with learning disabilities 20 years ago, and after meeting Theresa and those she was supporting on the walks, I felt I was able to help.

I enjoy helping others and seeing them happy, small things make all the difference. After time with them I feel I have done something worthwhile for others.

I always come home happy and look forward to the next time we meet. It’s lovely now to be out and about and have members come over to say hello. Great to be appreciated, but I feel I get back so much more from them than I give.

Volunteering has given me a purpose and a sense of being useful to others. Since I am no longer working, it keeps me busy and out of the house. I have met so many people, members, staff and volunteers. My family and friends have noticed a change in me, as I am a lot happier and I never stop talking about what we do.

The biggest challenge for me

The hardest thing for me was to overcome my shyness. I wasn’t too bad one-to-one, but with more people, I felt a bit overwhelmed. Now I enjoy the gatherings. Also getting accepted by everyone was a bit daunting for me, but this didn’t take long and we all get along great.

Thinking about volunteering?

Just do it! A small action from you can make such a difference to someone who needs support. You get so much joy from seeing people doing things they enjoy, knowing you have helped them achieve this. With volunteering you can do as much or as little time as you want to, and come home smiling knowing you have helped someone.

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