A newsletter from the Trust prompted beneficiary Louise to volunteer for the Talk Together service
Louise still lives in the town where she grew up; where she married the boy who lived down the road. She’s a woman of many talents – and has even been a finalist on Master Chef.
She became a beneficiary of the Thalidomide Trust about three years ago, and her injuries from Thalidomide, while uncomfortable, are not as obvious as some of the disabilities it can cause.
That doesn’t mean she’s not aware of the challenges living with a disability presents – when her mother was grappling with Motor neurone disease Louise experienced at firsthand how inaccessible shops and restaurants still are for those with mobility issues; how people treat you differently; how isolated you can feel. She’s seen it all.
The Talk Together service requires good listening and communication skills
Louise is a very people-centred person. She is a qualified teacher with advanced status and likes spending time with children, watching them grow and helping them communicate. She’s always been a good listener and has good communications skills – knowing when to talk and when to just keep quiet.
So when she saw a piece in the Trust’s newsletter, inviting people to volunteer for the Talk Together programme she was intrigued and decided to find out more:-
“Talk Together is a service for beneficiaries who need someone to talk to, to build a relationship with”, she explains “You’re matched with another beneficiary that you have things in common with and spend half an hour on the phone with them once a week.
It’s a great service for people who might be lonely, socially isolated or limited in how much they can get out and interact with other people; or just people who want to talk about the highs and lows of everyday living.”
“When I saw the opportunity to join Talk Together, I had already been through quite a lot. I had lost both my parents, my husband, my dog – and found I was quite resilient and able to pick myself up and keep on going. I wanted to help other people who might be in the same position, or something similar, and show them that there’s someone there for them,” says Louise.
Training was required for this volunteer role
“I didn’t just turn up and start volunteering,” she continues “I had to fill in an application form detailing my skills and talents, do a test and have a verbal interview with the Trust. When I was accepted I had two hours’ training – it was very thorough.
I then had to wait until I was ‘matched up’ with another beneficiary. I was lucky as a suitable match came up quickly and I have now been talking to a lovely man, every week, since last summer.”
Louise looks forward to her weekly conversation but, as she explains, there are clear boundaries to supporting another beneficiary;-
“It’s all done on the phone and no personal details like photos, numbers or addresses are exchanged” she comments, “It’s not a friendship – it’s a supportive relationship based on trust and confidentiality. That doesn’t mean we don’t share experiences, interests and ‘stories’ – the gentleman I speak to has lived a fascinating life.”
Volunteering enables you to give something back while helping someone else
When asked why she volunteers Louise laughs:- “I wanted to give something back to other beneficiaries, but also I did it for selfish reasons! It gives you a good feeling, bringing a bit of sunshine into someone’s life every week. If it didn’t feel good I probably wouldn’t be so motivated to do it – so I think it’s ok to be selfish.”
Louise knows that she can get support from the Trust if there are any issues arising from the calls she makes, if she needs to talk about how she feels, or is worried about anything – but so far she has found the experience plain sailing:-
“I would totally recommend volunteering for Talk Together,” she says, “It’s extremely rewarding.
You have to remember, though, that it’s a serious commitment and a mutual agreement – based on mutual respect. You have to give it your full attention.
And the great thing is – it’s free for anyone who needs it, you can’t say better than that.”