The third in my series on the users and volunteers of the Abingdon Good Neighbourhood Scheme is on Trudy, who is 94 and lives alone. Her husband died about 20 years ago; her daughter lives locally. She has a wicked sense of humour and has so many stories to tell from her early life. She is currently trying to write an autobiography.
“I often get lonely and also get migraines. I was feeling a bit low and my doctor told me about the scheme. So now Judith and two other volunteers come to visit me every week. They just come for a chat and take me out shopping sometimes because I can’t get out by myself. I go to a local day centre on Fridays. One day a new person arrived and as we were all just sitting there, they asked me “Is this it?!” so I asked if we could start a knitting circle. Now I teach the other women to knit and crochet and we make things to sell in our little shop.
“I used to work in a Lancaster bomber factory during the war. At nights I would travel to the factories and sing to entertain the workers; I’d also visit and sing for the forces. I was once spotted by a talent scout who wanted to pay me to send me to America to entertain the troops abroad. I had to turn it down so that I could keep the home going for my brothers who were serving in the war, as my mother died when I was 7, and there was no one else to wait for them. One of my brothers was captured in France and kept as a POW in Germany for 5 years. So any money I made from the singing I used to give to the Red Cross, as a donation to help them send parcels to prisoners of war. He was captured when he came out of a shop in France where he was buying me a gold watch and a crucifix. When the German soldiers took him they stole the watch, but threw the crucifix back at him. He kept that cross all the way through his time in the camp and I now have it on the wall upstairs. I also have the name tag he used to wear in the camp.
When he came home, the whole village came round to welcome him. I sobbed when I saw him. He used to sit with his arm protecting his plate every time I cooked him dinner, because he was so used to people stealing his food. It took him a long time to trust me again even.”
Judith is one of the volunteers from the scheme who visits Trudy.
“I visit Trudy every week, and have been for about 2 years now. My husband is also involved with the scheme, he usually just does any DIY jobs that need doing and is also the treasurer. Sometimes if my mum is visiting from Cardiff we all go out on a trip to a garden centre or something together. Trudy and I have such a good laugh sometimes. We have to hold onto each other we laugh so much. Trudy is trying to write down parts of her life, so I sometimes help her with that. She has so many stories to tell….”
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.