Kathleen recently joined Sunnybank’s team of volunteers as a Citizen Advocate. She supports Margaret*, who Kathleen describes as a ‘fantastic woman with a wonderful sense of humour’. Margaret is always happy and smiling, living independently in her own home thanks to the support of friends, family and Kathleen.
In her own words, here is Kathleen’s experience of volunteering with Sunnybank and supporting Margaret:
I wanted to volunteer because I had finished working on an ongoing project that had occupied me physically and mentally; I wanted a change. I have volunteered throughout my adult life and I missed the positive, satisfying feeling it gives you. I chose Sunnybank via my local volunteer centre website because I thought the advocacy role sounded interesting. I had never really heard of advocacy before but it sounded like something I could do!
As a volunteer I try to ensure that my advocacy partner is being looked after in a way that I would expect and like to be taken care of. I visit her twice a week; once for about an hour to check her post, inform her of any appointments and to visit with her. The second visit is to help her get on the transport to the local day center. I contact her family and friends about any issues that need resolving and alert them to anything that needs attending to on her behalf. (The amount of time a Citizen Advocate spends with their advocacy partner depends on the person’s individual situation – for some it’s only an hour a month, for others it’s an hour a week.)
Margaret is a fantastic woman and I am very fond of her already. She has a wonderful sense of humour and is always happy and smiling. I really enjoy visiting her each week; she makes me laugh each time!
The best bit about volunteering is the feeling that I am making a positive difference in someone’s life. The challenging bits are the frustration I sometimes encounter when trying to get things done to help Margaret; bureaucracy and funding issues can be annoying when you want to get something positive organised.
If I could say anything to potential volunteers it would be to let them know I had no experience of interacting with people with learning disabilities when I came to Sunnybank; it would appear that it is not necessary. (Sunnybank offers regular training, support and information sessions to ensure all our volunteers are confident and informed.) All you need is the desire to spend some time with wonderful people and try to help them in any way you can – I can tell you that family and friends are so appreciative of having someone who has their loved one’s best interest in mind. It is a very satisfying feeling to be appreciated for seemingly so little.
One of Margaret’s friends was the catalyst for getting Margaret involved in Sunnybank. She remains a committed friend to Margaret and has been really pleased with how well things have gone since she was introduced to her advocate: “Kathleen has been a fantastic advocate for Margaret, identifying and organising so many things. I know Margaret’s brother and I are very relieved and grateful.”
We’re always on the lookout for more volunteers, so if you’d be interested in becoming an advocate (or any of our other roles) then please get in touch with Felicity via firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Likewise, if you or someone you know might benefit from the support of a volunteer Citizen Advocate then get in touch via email@example.com or call us on 01372749871.
*Name changed for confidentiality.