The Voice Of Experience

One of the original Trust volunteers, Jean supports people across the country via the telephone

Jean O’Hare will have been retired eight years this year – and she’s enjoying every minute of it.

Loving her gym visits, three times a week, meeting friends for lunch, taking an interest in crafts, theatre and cinema, she’s always busy if she’s not spending time at home with her husband Alex and their toy poodle, who she admits is ‘very spoilt’.

After 29 years’ working at the council Jean knows what it’s like to be on the front line, dealing with often complex and/or emotional issues.

“I found that experience really useful when I was approached to be a volunteer visitor for the Thalidomide Trust, 20 years ago“ she reflects, “I was one of the original members and my role has evolved a lot over all that time.”

Volunteer role is varied and helps people with both practical and emotional issues

Jean is a life-long beneficiary of the trust, and limited in her four limbs. She can only drive short distances so it helps that she’s able to support all of her clients over the telephone:-

“My clients are scattered all over the country,” Jean explains, “and I help with all kinds of things from helping with the PIP benefit forms, to supporting people with emotional issues. I don’t give financial advice, but do refer people to the right people to speak to at the Trust. From the beginning I was assigned the longer-term, complex cases, and I’m still working with some of the people I first started with.”

Jean’s work involves supporting people over the telephone and reporting back to the Trust on how they’re doing – flagging up any concerns, or needs that the Trust can help with.

It's important that you don't let the role get stressful

Her experience at the council has helped her take a straight forward attitude to her work – without letting it get to her. “If I let it get stressful, I wouldn’t be able to help people properly – I wouldn’t be able to be there for them, so I switch off after I’ve completed each call and report” she says.

“My council job could be stressful and I had to deal with very emotional issues – like interviewing homeless people about their needs. One thing I learnt was that it’s important not to take these things into other parts of your life. I’ve had basic counseling training and both that, and my experience, keeps me balanced.”

Jean finds the role of volunteer fulfilling

The amount of time Jean spends volunteering depends on the needs of her clients.  She feels fulfilled in her role and is grateful for the understanding, knowledge and empathy it instills in her.

“I’d encourage other beneficiaries to do the same thing” she says, “but only if they have the right aptitude – training, the right temperament and empathy. If you’re not sure, don’t do it.”

Find out more about the volunteer opportunities with the Trust

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