I popped into the Age UK office in Salisbury yesterday. They advertised a "mince pie" coffee morning for volunteers. Because I only go to the office at a pretty set time each week, I tend to see the same few faces, so these social events are good opportunities to meet volunteers who I don't see from week-to-week.
Yesterday, I met a lovely woman who did the same as me (telephone befriending) but who had only started doing it a few weeks ago. I mean, I'm still very much learning myself, but at least I have a few months under my belt. Of course we talked in general terms, so as to protect our clients' confidentiality, but we both had similar experiences. This woman admitted to being not-very-computer-literate, so only a couple of weeks in, feels like she's fighting against the CRM software that Age UK use. To be honest I consider myself very computer-literate, and still find some of the same. I tend to only push the buttons I need to complete my specific task, although the system does a lot more. And I'd expect user privileges to be a big part of any system, so I expect there's a lot of stuff it wouldn't allow me to see, even if I did. And, not least, this is "live" client data, on a system that is currently being used by Age UK, so it's not as if I can tinker as I might in a Development environment.
I also met the Age UK employee who asked me to become a telephone befriender in the first place. It was lovely to see her, I think we just clicked from when we first met, but I hardly see her during my normal volunteering hours, so it is about three months since I've seen her. But she's quite outgoing so she probably gets on with whoever she meets. (I'm not. I've probably become more willing to express "positive" since the stroke (just in terms of maybe paying someone a compliment), but that's not quite the same thing. I knew that getting out and meeting new people would help my recovery, but I'm naturally quite shy.) You kind-of think that it must be really useful for a charity to have somebody with that kind of outgoing personality, just in terms of quickly establishing a rapport with clients. For me, I feel quite grateful to her because she must have spotted that I didn't do much, and pitched the telephone befriending role to me. So I was finally able to get involved, having been quite passive up until them. I think it was a case of being happy to help out doing whatever, but just not knowing what the whatevers were! The stroke work was the same. I mean, I don't want to sell myself short here, though, because Age UK are probably grateful to me too - we both benefited from the arrangement (I'd like to think!)
Plus, this woman happens to be a similar age to me, and we have kids of similar ages. So we can regale each other with broadly similar experiences - she's going through the "first year when kid isn't home for christmas" this year, which I went through two or three years ago. And I get the impression that a lot of my clients were picked by this woman, so she knows a lot of the back-stories. I know from the entries in the logging system that she sometimes speaks to the clients as well. So there's more common ground, in that we can discuss a client (for example, if we have concerns over their welfare) on a professional level, so we're on the same page. Plus, she's often known these people for longer than I have and knows things about them, things I haven't really learnt yet. Just, really, because it doesn't come up naturally in my weekly telephone conversations with the clients, and I don't really want to pry.
So, yes, all-in-all nice to meet some new colleagues, plus a refresher on some existing ones. Next stop, christmas!
BEFORE YOU START: Please note that although I currently volunteer for both the Stroke Association and Age UK, the views expressed in this blog are strictly my own. I am not a spokesperson for either (or, indeed, for any) organisation, and I accept complete responsibility for the views expressed herein. I've tried to use the Glossary to explain any ambiguous terms, but if you think there is anything I've missed, please message me.