On the 1st of October, people from across the world unite in celebration of the International Day of Older Persons. This special day serves as a reminder of the invaluable contributions made by older people to our societies and our communities. This year, the theme “Know Our Place: Celebrating ageing in our community’s past, present, and future” shines a spotlight on the role the local area and environment plays in the process of ageing well. The theme focuses on place-making, civic pride, and the influence older people have in shaping their communities and landscapes.
Here are the stories of just some of those who through volunteering are supporting their communities in Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole.
Chris Galpin is a Room Guide, and Wedding Steward at Highcliffe Castle, Christchurch as well as an Honorary Steward volunteering at Twickenham.
Why do I volunteer? I am tempted to say ‘why not?’ but nothing is ever that simple!
My very first volunteering role was in my early twenties with Tyler Green Motor Club, where I helped with marshalling on night rallies, requiring a stop watch, plenty of coffee and big coats. In those days road rallying was on public roads, starting Sunday at 1 a.m. and finishing around 6 a.m.
By my late twenties, I was working as a front line forex trader with a major bank in the city of London. A small group of dealers persuaded the bank to allow us time once a week to travel to the East End of London and help teachers in a rundown primary school with English and Maths lessons. A humbling experience, although the mainly Bangladeshi children were delightful.
A few years later I was invited to present a series of half day courses on Personal Finance to young teenagers at various schools and colleges, explaining the workings of credit cards, mortgages, loans, and financial planning; which I am sure helped those for whom money was a taboo subject.
Like many people, I eventually reached the age where work was losing its sparkle; commuting into London was becoming both expensive and crowded, and I was looking for a change of direction. I am normally fairly out going, and happy to chat to anyone given the chance, so volunteering was comfortably familiar.
My first sporting interest has always been rugby, and in 2015 I was lucky enough to be involved in the administration of the Rugby World Cup, which then led me to become an Honorary Steward at Twickenham, a wonderful role I still enjoy today! The picture accompanying this article is of Johnny Wilkinson with myself and another steward and friend Joan, at an England game where he was signing autographs near our section.
Two years ago, my wife and I moved to the south coast, and one day, by chance, I noticed a poster for volunteers at Highcliffe Castle. I am now involved as a room guide, adding to the visitors’ enjoyment and understanding of the castle and its history, although sometimes just talking about the weather! I am also delighted to be involved on some weekends as a wedding steward, helping all those attending enjoy the experience as much as is possible.
Both of these roles are quite simple at heart, but with a little effort can become some of the best days you can have. The team of staff and volunteers at Highcliffe Castle welcomed me from day one, and it feels more like being part of a family than a place of work sometimes.
Like many volunteers at the castle, I limit myself to the time I have freely available, although I do sometimes help out in extremis, and therefore find myself looking forward to the time I spend there.
Mandy and Dennis’s volunteer story is a wonderful example of how a chance encounter and a desire for change can lead to a fulfilling and meaningful journey of giving back to the community.
Seven years ago, Mandy and Dennis decided to make a change in their lives after working as social workers. They were looking for something different, a new way to contribute and make a positive impact. Their journey began when they attended a show at the Pavilion Dance South West, and noticed someone wearing a “volunteer” shirt. Curiosity led them to strike up a conversation, and from there, their volunteering journey began. They discovered that there were various ways they could contribute, from collecting tickets at performances to setting up for events, assisting with crowd control, and even dancing themselves. This newfound diversity in their activities allowed them to explore different facets of volunteering while enjoying the arts and culture scene in Bournemouth.
In addition to their involvement with Pavilion Dance South West, Mandy and Dennis also dedicate their time to the Bournemouth Foodbank located in Boscombe. The Foodbank supports people in the local community to have access to food and other supplies that they may be struggling to afford. Here, they play a crucial role in the warehouse, sorting and organising food donations received from local supermarkets and the community. They attend once a week and can let the team know if they can’t attend for a session, meaning it also allows them to have the flexibility to travel, which they love. Volunteering is not a new venture for Mandy and Dennis, they have previously combined their love of travelling with volunteering in Sri Lanka.
For Mandy and Dennis, volunteering has meant more than just filling their time; it’s been a transformative experience. It has given them a sense of purpose and fulfilment, knowing that they are making a tangible difference in their community.
Their advice to anyone considering volunteering is both practical and inspiring: “do something different that you would not normally do.” This advice encourages others to step outside their comfort zones, explore new opportunities, and discover the rewards that volunteering can bring.
Laura’s experience as a volunteer with Abbeyfield Wessex is inspiring and highlights the many rewards of volunteering. Her journey started when she met the Manager while on a walking group, which led her to explore opportunities to contribute to her local community. Her involvement with Abbeyfield Wessex includes various activities such as making cups of tea, accompanying residents on trips, organising chair-based exercise groups, and simply engaging in conversations with residents.
What makes Laura’s volunteering experience so fulfilling is her genuine pleasure in helping people. Her perspective on volunteering is quite valuable, as she believes that she gains more from volunteering than she gives. She says making a positive impact on others can be incredibly rewarding.
Laura’s advice to those interested in volunteering is practical and insightful. She encourages people to choose activities they genuinely love, emphasizing that passion and enthusiasm can make a significant difference in the volunteer experience. Additionally, she highlights the importance of being clear about one’s availability when volunteering. This helps organisations like Abbeyfield Wessex effectively utilise volunteers’ time and skills.
Laura’s story serves as an excellent example of the positive impact that volunteering can have on individuals and communities. It reminds us that the act of giving back not only benefits others but also brings personal fulfilment and joy.
Mary’s journey as a volunteer with Forest Holme Hospice is a deeply touching and inspiring story. Her decision to volunteer at the hospice where her husband, Eric, spent his last days is a testament to her strength and resilience in the face of personal loss. It reflects her desire to transform her grief into something positive, both for herself and for others facing similar situations.
One of the remarkable aspects of Mary’s volunteer work is her willingness to share her own experiences with grief. By participating in ‘Living with loss’ sessions alongside the Bereavement Counseller, she offers a personal perspective that can resonate deeply with those in attendance. Mary’s honesty about the emotional changes that occur when losing a loved one serves as a reminder that it’s perfectly normal to undergo such transformations. Her message of support and the importance of rebuilding one’s life after loss is invaluable for those navigating the complex journey of grief.
Mary’s passion for connecting with people shines through in her interactions with patients and their families. Her genuine interest in learning about their stories and experiences is evidence of her compassionate nature. She believes that face-to-face interactions are the most profound way to understand the human condition, highlighting the power of empathy and human connection.
Her advice to find joy even in the face of profound loss is a beacon of hope for others. Mary’s personal fulfilment and satisfaction derived from volunteering serve as a testament to the healing power of giving back to the community. Her belief that volunteering gives you more than you give, and the idea that if you give 100%, you get 200% back, reflects the immeasurable rewards of selflessness and kindness.
Mary’s invitation to others to try volunteering is an encouragement for everyone to explore the enriching experience of giving back and making a positive impact on the lives of others. Her story serves as a reminder that in the face of adversity, there is an opportunity for personal growth, resilience, and the ability to bring light and comfort to those in need. Mary’s dedication to Forest Holme Hospice is a tribute to her late husband.
Feeling inspired? Find out more about amazing volunteer roles in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. Visit our volunteer hub.