From Chatterbox talking newspaper for the blind to Pets As Therapy, Jayne Evans has learnt so much from volunteering in Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 09:31 28 November 2016 | UPDATED: 09:31 28 November 2016
When I was in my twenties or thirties, if someone suggested that I spend some of my spare time doing voluntary work I would have said: "What? Not get paid? Seriously?"
After clarifying that there was no money involved, I would have only given the suggestion further consideration if there had been some clear benefit to my broadcasting career or my love life.
Fast forward to my fifties and now professional happiness is far more important than professional progression.
And as for my love life. Vacancy filled.
With maturity comes a realisation that life’s journey is kinder to some than others. I’ve been really lucky.
Loving parents. An OK state education all the way to degree level. An interesting and varied career. Good friends and good health.
In the past few years I have taken on some volunteer roles because – embarrassing bit coming up – I want to help others who have not been dealt such a decent hand.
That’s it. Simple as that. I wasn’t expecting anything in return. I wasn’t looking for professional or personal development but that’s what I got.
My first volunteer role, about six years ago, was in the world of criminal justice.
I was given formal training in how to mentor young offenders and how to conduct restorative justice sessions in neighbourhood disputes.
Since then various volunteer roles have taught me how to help someone with visual impairment navigate a busy high street, how to recognise the signs of dementia and deal with that person respectfully, how to protect someone with challenging needs and how to help teenagers write CVs and prepare for interviews.
In short. I’ve given a little and gained a lot.
More recently, I was elected to the Board of Age UK Norfolk.
Being a trustee of a large charity is a responsibility and, for first-timers like me, a steep learning curve.
Each Board member brings a different set of skills to the table and it’s our job to help lead the charity and champion the cause of older people.
Actually, Age UK Norfolk is currently looking for some new trustees.
They’re a friendly and inspiring bunch of people, so if you want to check this opportunity out, take a look on their website.
So, do I feel like I am helping people? That was, after all, my motivation for volunteering.
Yes I do. Some roles, like my trusteeship, are not exactly hands-on, although decisions made at board level do, of course, change lives.
Once a month I spend an hour recording the Chatterbox talking newspaper for the blind, which is supported by the Norwich Evening News.
In a previous life I read news bulletins on the radio, so I rather enjoy sitting in a studio and dusting off the BBC voice!
I have never met the people who listen to me but I know that Chatterbox helps them feel more connected to their community.
Also, every couple of months, my labrador, Delia, and I help with the charity Pets as Therapy.
Petting a friendly dog is good for the body, mind and soul, which is why Pets as Therapy works in care homes, hospitals, schools, colleges and prisons.
Last week Delia and I were sitting on the floor of the Students’ Union at the UEA.
Delia was stroked and tickled for two hours (she loves it) by young people who are facing all the stresses of studying for exams and living away from home for the first time.
For some young people the simple act of stroking an animal and chatting about home, to someone who has made the time to listen, could be a life-saver.
Life is challenging for everyone, in one way or another.
One day I may need the help of a volunteer. Perhaps that’ll be you.