After working for many years at the mental health charity MIND, Meg became a volunteer at Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre The Chantry in Ipswich. She visits weekly as a befriender to several of the residents, each of whom has been impacted by a neurological condition, while also training as an end of life ‘Doula’.
Into the community again
Meg is a 77 year old retired counsellor from Burstall, Suffolk.
For many years, Meg worked at the mental health charity, MIND. She was instrumental in setting up the East Suffolk MIND network which offers counselling services to local GP practices. After giving up work, she began volunteering there.
Meg has also been volunteering at The Chantry Neurological Care Centre in Ipswich for the last 18 months; she visits weekly as a befriender to several of the residents, each of whom has been impacted by a neurological condition. She is also in training as an end of life ‘Doula’, a person who accompanies people in the final stages of their life.
Meg had been retired for quite some time when she felt a need to get back out into the community. She explains what brought her to The Chantry:
“I was just on the bus one day, on a usual trip into town when I saw a sign to Sue Ryder, The Chantry – and it just struck me that with my experience in mental health counselling, perhaps I could help out in some way.”
The Chantry is one of four Sue Ryder neurological centres in the UK offering specialist care and rehabilitation to people with complex needs; many will have suffered a brain or spinal injury, through an accident, stroke, or degenerative condition such as Motor Neurone Disease or Parkinson’s Disease. The centre also offers unique day services and helpline advice to Dementia sufferers and their families.
Volunteers like Meg are invaluable to the centre. The dedicated Chantry team works to full capacity at all times, and whether it’s somebody helping out with reception duties, with activities for residents or as a general handyperson, the extra help provided by volunteers is always much appreciated by residents, relatives and staff.
“Gerald can be up and down emotionally and he likes to let off steam occasionally so I’m a great sounding board!”
At the moment, Meg divides her weekly visits between three residents, John*, Gerald and Frances, each of whom receive different kinds of help and attention from her.
“Gerald can be up and down emotionally and he likes to let off steam occasionally so I’m a great sounding board! Frances, on the other hand, has resided here for many years, is easy-going and just likes to have a nostalgic chat over a cup of tea sometimes.”
Making a difference
When Meg first met John, he found it difficult to engage with people emotionally. She explains:
“When I would ask John a question such as ‘Would you like me to read to you?’, he would give me a very short and monotone response: ‘If you like.’ One day I decided to offer him a hand massage, since with no family or other visitors, he rarely experienced human touch.
John gave me his stock response: ‘If you like.’ But, during the massage, he began to close his eyes and when I’d finished, I was astounded at his animated response: ‘You made me go to sleep!’. This was a real breakthrough in John’s emotionally reserved world and I felt privileged to have made a connection. John and I are friends now and when I come to visit, he offers me his hand without me asking.”
The Chantry’s Director, Jo Marshall applauds the work of the centre’s volunteers:
“We have a small group of very hard-working and generous individuals who we regularly count on for their time and assistance. Between them, they have a range of valuable skills which make a positive impact on the residents and staff here at The Chantry.
It’s important that volunteers like Meg are valued and looked after well as they really do make a difference.
Having a co-ordinator on site is very important in nurturing our volunteers, especially when it comes to arranging group events such as the Christmas lunch and training days. Also, it’s good for people to know they have a designated person that they can come to with any questions or concerns.”
*Residents’ names have been changed to protect their privacy.
Find out more information about Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre The Chantry, the speciaist neurological care they provide and how you can help support them to continue being there when it matters most.