Dave and Carol are part of an exciting new social movement that encourages volunteers to support people in their community who are lonely or isolated and who have a chronic or terminal illness. Dave was matched with Carol two months ago and visits her each week for an hour. It sounds as though they are both getting a lot from it.
Dave, 45, felt he had reached a point in his life where he had the time to volunteer, “to give something back.” He explains why he was drawn to the Compassionate Neighbour role when he searched for opportunities online: “18 months ago my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. Fortunately she had a great support network but it made me aware that not everyone does.”
Volunteers have to complete two days of training to become a Compassionate Neighbour, which Dave felt was helpful. “I got a lot from it,” he says. “We talked about the importance of listening skills, gained a better understanding of what people might be going through and discussed loneliness, and how people can still be lonely even when they have other people around them.”
Dave was then matched with Carol, 65, who lives alone. She says: “I was hoping to get someone to talk to and who would go walking with me. I’ve had a lot of falls so I was losing my confidence.”
Since they first met, they have been for walks along the river, visited various garden centres and also to the library. Most recently, they went to the supermarket, something Carol hasn’t done for a very long time as she has felt unable to go out alone. “I was like a child in a sweet shop!” she laughs. They have both found that the conversation seems to flow very naturally. “Dave is very easy to talk to,” Carol says. “I’m a fan of gardening and he was asking questions when we went round the garden centre – it was nice that I could share information with him. He’s very kind and considerate too, and seems to know just the right amount of help to give.”
As Dave says, they’re unlikely ever to have met socially but “it’s something different for me and we talk about everything. It’s an escape from the rat race for me and an escape for her from what she’s going through.”
Having someone to talk to is really important for Carol as she doesn’t have any friends or family nearby. What she has also gained already is the confidence to go out on her own. “My confidence is coming back now,” she says. “I’ve already been out walking on my own and that makes me feel more part of the community.”
Dave would certainly recommend the Compassionate Neighbour role, as long as you can commit to giving one hour a week. “It’s nice to be able to do something. An hour a week is so little for me but it means so much to Carol. These people really rely on you.”