What attracted you to volunteering for CAN Connect?
I joined CAN Connect during the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2021. The lockdowns that we all had to endure really made me consider how difficult it must be for those who are on their own; isolated and lonely during these times, and how it must feel to have no one to connect with and talk to. This is when I started looking into volunteering with people who may be in this position, and I found CAN Connect. It felt like the perfect opportunity to support people who need it. And even though the pandemic seems like it is behind us for the most part, there are still people out there that need support for isolation and loneliness.
What qualities do you think a person needs to support a client?
I think it’s important to be an active listener; not just listening, but also actively responding to show that you are acknowledging and validating what has been said by a client. – Having a positive attitude when supporting a client can turn around their day! – Patience is key when a client is wanting and/or needing to express themselves – you don’t want them to feel rushed or under pressure. – Being empathetic and sensitive to difficult topics that may arise can help with supporting a client in whatever they need. – Building rapport with a client helps with gaining trust and being able to be a bigger support when they feel they can open up to you more. – Being reliable shows a client that you can be relied upon when a plan is made. Everyone has unexpected things that pop up in their lives, but if a planned phone call or meet up needs to be re-arranged, give plenty of notice where possible!
You currently offer telephone support to a client and have met up with her, what do you personally get from volunteering?
Volunteering has been an absolute joy. I have been speaking to a client for nearly 2 years, and we have met up in person twice during this time. To me, it is like checking in with a friend, making sure they are well, happy and supported. I feel content when I have made my weekly phone call; it is the best feeling being able to come away from the call knowing I have made a difference.
How does your Life Connector support you within your role?
Natalie has been brilliant throughout my volunteering journey. I send updates via email and always get a lovely response, and any queries (for example checking if it is okay to take a client to a CAN Connect event in my own vehicle) are answered promptly and with plenty of information to make it clear what I need to do. I feel like my Life Connector is very approachable, friendly and willing to help in whatever way she can!
What would you say to someone who is thinking of volunteering for the service or volunteering in general?
Do it! Signing up for anything new or starting a new venture can be a bit nerve wracking sometimes. Especially if you have other commitments (I am a full – time university student with another community volunteering role at a day centre). But taking a small amount of time out of my busy schedule to speak to a client has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. It is rewarding, invaluable and such a simple thing to do to have such a big impact on clients’ lives. CAN Connect make the application process so easy, doable and you get given plenty of information before you start so you know what to expect. Any volunteering role that you go for is a positive experience you will never forget.
Complied by Natalie Hickman – Senior Life Connector – March 2023