This month Saltbox spoke with Healthwatch Stoke-on-Trent’s Community Outreach Lead, Laura Johnson. Prior to joining Healthwatch, Laura spent time volunteering as a befriender with our CareLink service. We caught up with Laura to hear about the benefits of volunteering and how she combined her time with us while studying for a degree at Staffordshire University.
How did you first hear about CareLink?
Laura: I was doing my degree at Staffordshire University which was a BA Honours in Social Welfare, Law and Policy Advice. We had various organisations coming in and speak to us about the work they did in the local community. Saltbox Chief Executive Lloyd Cooke gave a talk about how CareLink helps lonely and isolated individuals across Stoke-on-Trent. It really hit home as my grandparents live in America, so I could relate to how people feel when their family move away and they don’t have their loved ones around them.
What was the best thing about volunteering?
Laura: Interacting with so many different people allowed me to develop new skills which eventually led to a job with Healthwatch. I’m now speaking in front of large groups, sometimes over 100 people, which is something I couldn’t picture myself doing before. It’s really provided me with the experience to participate in the community and interact with so many individuals from different backgrounds. It’s not just an organisation – it’s like a family who are always willing to help and point you in the right direction.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about volunteering for CareLink?
Laura: I’d say it’s most important to be yourself. We all have our own unique quirks and interests. Don’t worry about the age difference if you happen to be young and you’re speaking to someone who is older. You can always find common ground along the way. For example, I really love Norman Wisdom – who would think somebody my age would be a fan of Norman Wisdom? It was back in the day, in black-and-white, but it was something I could relate to when speaking with elderly clients. If you don’t have anything specific to talk about then don’t worry, just ask how their day is going, or tell them what you’ve been up to, or what either of you might have planned. You’ll always be able to find that common ground.
To find out more about the fantastic work Laura and Healthwatch Stoke-on-Trent do, please visit their website at: www.healthwatchstokeontrent.co.uk
If you’re interested in volunteering for our CareLink service, feel free to get in touch for a friendly chat on 01782 810320 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.