A Waterside woman has spoken about how volunteering has given her a new lease of life - urging others in the city to follow her lead.
Ann O’Doherty, a mum of three grown up children, had worked in training until two years ago. Then faced with unemployment she admits she found her self “falling into a rut” and “bored of her mind” at home. Through Volunteer Now, she said she has been given the chance to learn new skills, meet new people and add some much needed routine to her life.
The 54-year-old is one of a growing number of older people who using and developing their skills through volunteering. “Volunteering was new to me,” Ann said. “I thought about it - the operative word being thought - but never quite got round to doing it, so when Volunteer Now got in touch and offered me the chance to help out on a gardening project at Spruce House, I jumped at the chance.”
Ann became involved in a gardening project which was certainly an eye opener. “I don’t even have a garden so this project was something totally new for me but was just what I needed.
“I met some fantastic people and in particular two of the other volunteer gardeners were women over 70 and were so fully of energy and enthusiasm they completely inspired me.”
Volunteer now offer a range of taster sessions so that each volunteer can find their own niche - and Ann says this is part of the appeal of the programme. “I get to try a range of diverse programmes where I can share my skills and learn from other people. The charities we work with also benefit so everyone is a winner.”
The next taster day in Ann’s calendar will be on Friday as part of Volunteer Now’s ‘One Good Reason Action Day’.
“For One Good Reason Action Day I am volunteering at the Macmillan Coffee Morning being run by Active Citizen Engaged. This one is inside and gives me a chance to sit down with people and chat to them, and help them feel more integrated into the city while supporting a great cause.”
Ann says she has no regrets at all about her decision to start volunteering and she can’t believe just how much of a positive impact it has had on her life.
“The whole experience of volunteering was great for my self-esteem, I really felt like I had a contribution to make and enjoyed the craic with the other volunteers which was hugely uplifting, as well as keeping myself busy in between looking for work.
“I’m up for anything and I now feel much more confident about trying out a range of different projects.”
As part of the European Year of Active Ageing, Volunteer Now with the support of the North West Volunteer Centre is calling on all over 50s like Ann to join them for a great day out this Friday to try their hand at volunteering.
Participants will be able to pick a volunteering activity and location that suits them ahead of the day. Will you take up the challenge? To register and find out more information about the day, please contact Cassie Riggs at Volunteer Now on 028 7127 1017 or visit www.volunteernow.co.uk.