When you see Alice and Fiona together, you might assume they have been lifelong friends, there is an easy connection in their friendship and they are really comfortable in each others company.  In fact, they have only known each other for a couple of months.

Alice lives at Westwood Lodge, a care home that Community Circles are currently working with – to match people with volunteers so that they can do more of what matters to them.

Chloe, the activities coordinator, had chatted with Alice to ask her what she would like to do more of and if she was interested in being matched with a volunteer.  Alice was keen to enjoy more fresh air and thought introducing a volunteer was a good idea.

Fiona, who lives locally, had seen one of our volunteer posters and got in touch saying she was interested in finding out more.

Fiona and I met, and chatted through the volunteering role and how people were matched to each other. First, I consider the best location for people to volunteer within their local community and match people together based on their shared interests at a time that is suitable.  Together with Fiona we developed her one page profile, a snapshot of information and shared this with Chloe to see if Fiona was a good match for Alice.

Both Alice and Fiona enjoy fresh air and walking and have a love of dogs, so we arranged an introduction.

At our first get together, everyone shared a bit about themselves and we explored with Alice the things that were working well for her and also anything that wasn’t working so well. Alice loves fresh air and really wanted to get out more, she was particularly keen to go for a walk along the canal to see the swans.  Alice uses an electric wheelchair and we realised that the gates along the canal prevented her going as far as she would like.  Fiona was keen to support Alice to go for a walk so we shared some ideas to help make this happen and agreed who would do what;

  • I agreed to contact a colleague who works for the Canal and River Trust to ask about the gates and what could be done so that Alice go further on the path
  • Chloe arranged a date to support Alice and Fiona to go out together
  • Chloe agreed to develop a one page profile with Alice so that Fiona would have detailed information about how to support Alice well when they were out and about in the future on their own

Alice and Fiona with Bella

Alice and Fiona are really enjoying each other’s company and often Bella, Fiona’s dog joins them for a visit too.  So far, they have had a trip shopping and are looking forward to some good weather for a walk along the canal now that we have a key for the gates.

Alice also told us how she used to enjoy visiting her local school before she moved into the care home to help with the children’s reading and wondered if there were any opportunities to do this again.  Myself and Chloe contacted the local school to chat about opportunities for connecting the school and care home and are delighted that in September Alice will be hosting a reading group with the children.  We are also planning to meet with the school council to share ideas about other things we can do together.

Alice tells us how she used to feel depressed and had little motivation to do things or join in with activities in the home.  She said, “I’ve not had these feelings since Fiona started visiting.  Fiona encourages me to do the things that I used to do such as arts and crafts.”   Alice has made some beautiful photo frames and contributed to the recent care home open day.  Alice was also the winner of the open day art competition which she is delighted with.

Fiona says the relationship is very much reciprocal and benefits her own wellbeing as much as Alice’s. Fiona says of her time together, “When I go home, I feel happy that we’ve had a nice time together.”  Fiona has been so inspired by her volunteering time with Alice that she is looking for a work opportunity supporting older people.

Fiona and Alice have made a great friendship and both say, “They are part of each other’s life now.”

Cath Barton
Community Circles Connector