Tell us a bit about yourself
I used to teach Modern Languages but in 2010 I took early retirement and moved to Hertfordshire in order to help my daughter with childcare so that she and her husband could continue to work in demanding but enjoyable jobs.
Why did you decide to start volunteering?
At first (when I retired), I felt very isolated as I didn't know anyone in the area except the young mothers in the mother and baby clubs. They were warm and welcoming but I did feel like a fish out of water. My lifelines were the Grandparent and Toddler group which ran at Letchworth under the Surestart initiative, and the French and German speaking groups run by the Letchworth Arts and Leisure Group. As my granddaughter and her little brother grew older, I started to use my newly acquired free time to volunteer for the Grandparent and Toddler group and to wash up at my local church luncheon club. I wanted to give back something after having gained so much from the local community. Covid has put an end to both of these volunteering activities but it has enabled me to take on new challenges.
What do you do within your volunteer role?
I am now the contact for two walking groups within the umbrella organisation of the Letchworth Arts and Leisure Group. We walk at least twice a month and this enables me to meet newly retired people and newcomers to the area, welcoming them just as I was welcomed.
I have also been able to use my teaching skills throughout the pandemic. I help Herts Welcomes Refugees by holding weekly zoom meetings with a local Syrian family so that they can practise their English and I have become a school governor - again meeting on zoom. I was alerted to the need for action in both these cases by St Mary's Church in Baldock.
I also volunteer for Barnardo's, who hold the contract for children's services in Hertfordshire. During the pandemic I have helped them assemble holiday craft packs for disadvantaged children. As the situation has eased, the Barnardo's volunteer co-ordinators have linked me to a family with English as a second language. I have helped this family to fill in application forms for a nursery place and enabled them to use English in play and story telling. We now meet outside in local playgrounds every week.
My other delightful role for Barnardo's is helping at a Baby weigh clinic, I welcome mothers, check their temperatures, help with the administration at the clinic and make sure that everyone wears a mask and sanitises their hands!
Why would you recommend volunteering to others?
Volunteering has given me so much pleasure - it's added interest and challenge to my life: planning lessons and play sessions, talking to people whose life experiences are different from my own, using simple, practical skills and my professional knowledge of grammar and language teaching. I have made friends with other volunteers and I am never bored. I have met with a great deal of kindness and friendship from the people of Hertfordshire, it is very empowering to be able to return this goodwill. Volunteering keeps me young!