Gary has been volunteering at our Evington Home in Leicester since February 2020. He tells us why he loves it
Volunteering at the home is the greatest thing I’ve ever done (aside from getting married and having children!). Before I started, I had the idea that older people don’t have that much to offer. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s often said, ‘it’s more blessed to give than to receive.’ I’ve only appreciated the truth of this since I started volunteering. I’ve been blessed in so many ways.
There was one lady, Olga, who used to rebuke me and tell me that we should be talking more about the Bible. She just had such boldness and assurance. My wife Andie works at the home as the Activities Facilitator. She’d come home and say (jokingly!), ‘Your girlfriend’s been asking after you.’ I couldn’t wait to go in and see her each week. She reached the age of 100 and has sadly passed now, but it was a joy to know her. She was from the West Indies and had been a nurse. I loved talking to her.
The very first time I went in, I was nervous. I wasn’t used to being around people with dementia who might behave in unusual ways. I worried that I might not know what to do. Over time, I’ve grown used to it. I’ve seen how the carers and other members of the team relate to those with dementia. I’ve also seen how things change. Sometimes the home will be noisy, with people calling out. Other times it will be very quiet. Like any family home, it ebbs and flows.
There’s something about the intimacy that you develop with the family members that’s extremely special. One gentleman had just returned home after spending time in hospital. He was bedridden and the first thing I did was go up to his room to pray with him. When he opened the door, he beamed. He was so glad to see me.
Just being there and giving your time is the thing that’s valued most. The family members are so pleased that someone has come to visit them. I used to think, ‘What use will I be? I don’t have anything to offer.’ I’ve realised that just going in to talk to someone is of immense value. The entire team at Evington is brilliant, but the carers have lots of other duties. As a volunteer, you’re free. Those who live in the home often can’t go out and get to church. So they are incredibly appreciative of visitors.
I work as a play centre worker and Thursday is my day off and so that’s the day I visit the home. I could spend the time sorting out my house and doing the shopping. But honestly, I’d far rather be at Evington!
Little things can make an enormous difference to someone. The gentleman who had been in hospital had received a card. He couldn’t read it himself and so he asked me to read it to him. It was just a small thing but it meant a lot to him.
One thing that’s really been brought home to me is how the people in the home have lived very full and rich lives. Another gentleman was still preaching only three of four years before he came into the home. His sermons are still online and they are amazing to listen to.
I’ve given talks from the Bible for the devotions sessions and prayed with the family members. One of my favourite things is singing hymns with them. To see older Christians singing and lifting their hands up to the Lord is very special. There’s one lady, Audrey, who plays the piano. I love hearing play and singing along myself.
"To see older Christians singing and lifting their hands up to the Lord is very special."
During lockdown, I couldn’t visit and that was extremely hard. We connected via Skype but it just wasn’t the same. I really missed them and couldn’t wait to get back in.
The carol service we just had before Christmas was extremely moving. Lots of the family members wouldn’t have their sons and daughters with them at Christmas, and it was the same for the staff. Because of the restrictions, one of our sons couldn’t come home for Christmas. Singing those familiar carols together, with words that meant so much to everyone, it felt like there was a bond between us. There’s no other word to describe it, it was magical. We were family together.
I often help Andie with the activities, sometimes craft and often cooking.
The family members at Evington love cooking the most and I have a
catering background myself. If you’ve got an interest to share, that can
be fun. But as I say, the main thing is that the family members enjoy
just having you there.
To anyone who is interested in volunteering but feeling unsure, I’d say give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose. It might take you out of your comfort zone, but it will give you the chance to grow and blossom in your faith. You’ll meet some incredible people and truly make a difference.
Find out more about Volunteering with us.