Meet our Volunteer Visitor - Ken
Retired teacher, Ken Williams, has found being a Volunteer Visitor a fulfilling way to help people who have shown exceptional strength.
“The reason I enjoy the role of volunteer visitor is that you are giving something of yourself to other people and I’ve discovered you get so much more back in return. Some I visit are lonely and when I see them, it is clear that someone who cares can make a big difference.
I became involved with the Elizabeth Finn Fund in November 2006 when a friend of my wife told her about the Charity and said she needed assistance in South Wales. A desire to help made me follow this up, and after some initial training, I made my first visit in March 2007. My list has now grown to 28 people (visiting each one annually). Many visitors have a smaller number.
“They are struggling financially and the support they receive, while not large, helps them to widen their choices and gain greater control over their lives”
The people I visit come from a wide range of professional backgrounds, including teachers, nurses, local Government workers, as well as artists and writers. The main thing they have in common is that they have contributed professionally to society and now need help themselves. They are struggling financially.
You visit places in Wales you would not see and some of them are really beautiful. It is very rewarding to meet other people of extremely varied backgrounds and it is humbling that they put their trust in you. A volunteer needs that desire to care, an ability to get on with people and good listening skills.
The individual packages of financial support the Elizabeth Finn Fund provides reduce the vulnerability and isolation of the people helped. It is amazing to see the difference that the Elizabeth Finn Fund is making to their lives. They are struggling financially and the support they receive, while not large, helps them to widen their choices and gain greater control over their lives. It is true from the people I see that over the last year the cost of living increases, especially food and fuel, have caused difficulties. This makes the contribution from the Elizabeth Finn Fund even more important.”
Helene wanted to get some experience that would complement her studies at the Open University.
“Soon after I began studying Health and Social Care at the Open University, I decided that I wanted to do some voluntary work relevant to my learning. I discovered that the Elizabeth Finn Fund needed more volunteers in Bath and I liked the fact their volunteer visitor scheme plays a significant role within the charity.
Last year I visited 21 people and so far this year I have visited five people. I treat my visits as a fact-finding mission. I see it as my role to fill in the gaps for the case workers at the charity to help them assess people’s eligibility for help. I find out as much about people’s circumstances as possible in order to paint a picture of the person and their situation in my report to the case team. I enjoy hearing people’s stories and I am a good listener.
“Good communication skills are paramount and it is vital to be empathetic”
Good communication skills are paramount and it is vital to be empathetic. But at the same time, you always have to remain professional as you can’t get upset in front of people, even though some have very distressing stories to tell.
As well as studying at the Open University, I run a property and refurbishment business but I make time for volunteering. I feel it represents my interests and I find it very rewarding. If you have a genuine curiosity and interest in people, then being a volunteer visitor for the Elizabeth Finn Fund is an engaging and extremely rewarding job.”
Eric and Valerie
When husband and wife Eric and Valerie Brown retired, rather than put their feet up and relax, they wanted to continue to help make a difference in their community in Northern Ireland.
Eric: Valerie and I ran a residential home for people with mental illness for 20 years. When we retired four years ago, we knew we wanted to continue helping others. I am kept busy as the chairman of the victim support group, South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF). But when Valerie came home one day and told me about the Elizabeth Finn Fund, I thought it sounded like a wonderful organisation and I wanted to help in any way I could.
“There are lots of community orientated people out there and I would say that the feeling of satisfaction you get from helping others is very rewarding”
We were both trained to become Volunteer Visitors, which involves visiting people wanting to receive help and paying a yearly visit to those already receiving help to find out more about their circumstances.
I came away from my first visit and said to Valerie, ‘if there is ever a deserving cause, this is it.’ I visited a man who had fallen ill. Rather than seek help from charity, the family had sold everything around them to make ends meet. When I went to visit their house was on the market and their savings had almost run dry… They were absolutely ecstatic when they were granted help from the Elizabeth Finn Fund and felt it had given them a bit of their life back.
There are lots of community orientated people out there and I would say that the feeling of satisfaction you get from helping others is very rewarding. I believe it’s not what you get from society but what you can put back into it. When people ask me what I am doing in my retirement, I am very proud to say I volunteer for the Elizabeth Finn Fund.
Valerie: Having worked as a nurse for 30 years, I wanted to continue to help people living in my community when I retired.
When I heard about the Elizabeth Finn Fund, I liked the fact that the charity helps people, including nurses, who have worked all their lives but have fallen on hard times.
So far I have visited 15 people, aged from 30 to 70, who are struggling financially and have perhaps spent all their savings and hit rock bottom.
“When you visit people in their own homes, you see first-hand the need for help and it is very rewarding being part of the process”
Many people feel embarrassed about their situation and feel too ashamed to ask for help - and so for them to seek help from the Elizabeth Finn Fund is a last resort. When I go and visit people, I am professional and understanding and I make sure people know the Elizabeth Finn Fund is there to help and that all their information will be treated confidentially. When you visit people in their own homes you see first-hand the need for help and it is very rewarding being part of the process that enables them to get the money they desperately need. I would say a bit of life experience is also essential and you need to be non-judgemental of other people.
People are always very appreciative of the help they receive from the Elizabeth Finn Fund. The money they receive can help them to pay their bills without fear of falling into debt or maybe pay for one or two little luxuries they would otherwise not be able to afford.
After Lindsay made the difficult decision to leave her career, she chose to put her skills to good use and become a volunteer visitor.
“I decided to give up my job as I found myself having to travel more and my husband and I were like two ships in the night. With this new found time on my hands, I wanted to get involved in charity work and to volunteer in the community. When I heard about the Elizabeth Finn Fund, I thought it sounded like an amazing organisation.
I have been told that one of my strengths is to relate easily to people. When a friend explained that the Elizabeth Finn Fund was looking for volunteers to visit those applying for help from the charity, I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to put this skill to use.
“It is important to make sure they will receive as much help as they need and I can do this by listening and by showing empathy”
After registering to become a volunteer, I was put through the charity’s training programme and once I felt ready to meet potential beneficiaries I shadowed another volunteer on a visit. I also had someone come to oversee my first visit which meant that I felt 100% confident when the time came.
I meet people in their own homes so that I can find out more about their circumstances. It is important to make sure they will receive as much help as they need and I can do this by listening and by showing empathy. Once people become beneficiaries, they receive an annual visit to make sure that they are getting the right level of support.
Everyone I see has a very different story to tell and they all come from a wide range of professional backgrounds. I am always shocked at the hardship they suffer. It made me even more determined to help.
Apart from it being really interesting to chat to people about their lives, it is also extremely rewarding and comforting to know that the people I visit may then receive the help that they so need from the Elizabeth Finn Fund.”