The second in my series on the users and volunteers of the Abingdon Good Neighbourhood Scheme is on Leita, 62, who lives alone and has recently had heart surgery. She also suffers from Fibromyalgia, M.E, diabetes and hypothyroidism, and was recently confined to her bed for 4 months. She contacted the Abingdon Good Neighbourhood Scheme to find someone to befriend her to help combat loneliness.
“I contacted the AGNS initially for help with my garden. After that had been sorted, I realised that I actually was very lonely and wondered if the AGNS could help more. I take Missy out for her walks, but people you meet while you’re out only want to talk about your dog or the weather; I want more than that.
“It’s just nice to know that Jacqui is coming, she helps me with anything I need. She initially started to help me with my filing, then when I became bed-ridden she started coming weekly. As I struggle with reading, she is now helping me to find some life insurance – I don’t trust myself when speaking to these companies on the phone, as I end up saying yes to all sorts of things.
“Jacqui has helped me in so many different ways – she really couldn’t come often enough!”
“Missy my dog saved my life once. I was out on my mobility scooter and due to a heart condition, I was unaware of at the time, I passed out. It caused my muscles to spasm, including my hand, and meant I pulled on the accelerator and sped off! I eventually blacked out and fell off the scooter. Missy ran off to find help; she found a man nearby, who was a neighbour from around the corner and her persistent barking made him feel something was wrong. He followed her back to find me unconscious on the ground. When the ambulance arrived, Missy was cleaning my head wound and wouldn’t let anyone touch me, someone eventually had to pick her up to get to me.”
Jacqui works part time as an administrator. She is has been visiting Leita for about 7 months and visits 5 other people also for the AGNS.
“I went part time about 18 months ago. I was already involved with Archway in Abingdon, but wanted something more, especially now that all of my mornings are free. I read about the Good Neighbourhood Scheme and thought I’d sign up. I visit each of my people once a fortnight, so that keeps Monday and Friday mornings free for me. You receive weekly emails from the scheme, asking for help, it could be doing a bit of gardening or picking up some shopping. I choose what suits me – I don’t take things on that involve driving as I don’t always have the use of a car. I usually stay with the neighbour I’m visiting for about an hour to an hour and a half, and while I’m there I’ll do anything extra they need, like pick up some shopping.
“I love doing this – it gives me something extra to do, but I get a lot from it too, it gives me a different outlook on life. Everyone has different complications, illnesses or types of loneliness. Some have good support from family and friends, some don’t have any. The days are long when you are on your own – having a visitor just helps to break up the day.
“There is a really good selection of social groups and clubs that people can get involved in, in Abingdon, but a lot of elderly and disabled people aren’t aware of them. I am also able to inform the people I visit who want to get out more, about what the options are. It’s hard for people who are isolated to hear about these things otherwise.
I’ve built up a real relationship with everyone I visit. Leita and I have a really good laugh, and we love putting the world to rights.”
This post forms part of a series of blog posts I am publishing aiming to advertise the work of the Abingdon Good Neighbourhood Scheme (AGNS) – a local network of volunteers who sign up to be informed by email whenever there is someone nearby who needs help of some sort, which cannot be provided through health and social care . This can be anything from visiting someone on a regular basis to befriend them, take them some shopping, or to an appointment, or paying one-off visits to help them sort out their garden, redecorate, or fill in some forms. The AGNS help anyone in need: the elderly and disabled, the isolated or lonely, and even mums who might need a hand. Emails are sent out to the volunteers on a regular basis detailing the needs of the neighbour and anyone who can take it on gets in touch. It is a very simple, but effective, scheme that really pulls the community together, linking charitable people who have an hour, or two, to spare with people who can benefit from their generosity.
If you are local to the Abingdon area, have an hour to spare, and would like to experience the warm, fuzzy feeling of volunteering to help someone in need, or know someone who could benefit from being visited, please contact the Abingdon Good Neighbourhood Scheme. Alternatively, if you live in Oxfordshire and would like information on how to set up a similar scheme in your area then have a look at the OCVA website.