Hi Folks, I hope you are all well. 

I have written this new blog all about volunteering.  The main reason I wanted to do this was to hopefully send out the message that volunteering can be a positive thing to do and in turn encourage more people to volunteer for Gateshead Carers Association.

I have carried out various volunteering roles since my early twenties up until the present time.  Looking back, I don’t know how I found the time as I did some of this whilst working full time and also when I was bringing up a young family. 

I have always been a “people person” so I think that may be the reason why I decided to volunteer but also, I think being an unpaid carer from an early age I could relate to people a lot more and especially have empathy for those in need.  

Saying that you do not need to be an unpaid carer to carry out any volunteering role, the main attributes which I personally think are important are time, commitment and an interest and enthusiasm for whichever organisation/charity you want to support.

My volunteering experiences over the years have ranged from teaching adults with learning disabilities numeracy and literacy skills, supporting a visually impaired gentleman at night school, being a Befriender for Marie Curie Charity, Minute Taker for the P.C.C. at my local church, ringing the church bells at my local church (or should I say being a Campanologist which sounds so much more talented ha ha!), fundraising for a local Veterans group and more recently carrying out litter picking in my local community to carrying out various jobs at my local cricket club. 

The jobs I have done over the years at the cricket club range from admin support for various committees, making cricket teas, organising party nights, serving behind the counter of the club’s tuck shop to calling bingo and compering band nights (the latter role being my favourite as exercising my jaws to the max all evening is right up my street much to the annoyance of some of the committee men, my husband included ha ha!)

I think the only job I haven’t carried out at the cricket club is working behind the bar but that is only because I am absolutely useless at pulling pints, in fact on the night I was being trained up there was more beer thrown away than was actually sold as I just couldn’t master the knack of creating a good head on a pint of beer.

I am not really a drinker and couldn’t understand what the issue was as it all goes down the same way, although thinking back my attempts probably did resemble ice cream sodas more than a pint of John Smiths!  

As for certain glasses being used for certain beers and ciders well do not even get me started, I mean how many glasses do you need, there are pint glasses, half pint glasses, shot glasses and wine glasses is that not enough? Anyway, I was sacked before I was even employed which was a pity for me but a blessing for everyone else especially all the customers who were standing at the bar with their tongues hanging out in anticipation! 

I did say to them at the time that I was saving them money, but they didn’t seem to be too impressed with that comment.  It is just as well my husband was Chairman at the time otherwise, I may have received a mouthful of abuse but instead received a lot of sympathetic smiles and phrases such as “Eeee hinny don’t get yourself in a state!” and “It’s fine pet, I’ll drink owt, me!” These comments were very nice, but I always thought when you were a barmaid you received comments such as “What is a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” or have I just watched too many romantic movies?  I suppose it wouldn’t have mattered what they said as my husband was standing at the end of the bar glaring at me saying “just step away from the pumps!” as if I was a criminal needless to say there was a bit of a domestic when we got home later but I still won the argument by saying at least I was a sociable barmaid ha ha!

It was only around 4 years ago that I reduced my volunteering significantly due to health problems, in fact the only thing which I continued to carry out was bingo calling and compering at my cricket club which I found to be no problem (now why is that not a surprise to you all!)

Anyway, that all changed in September 2019 when I was attending Gateshead Carers offices for support from one of the Carer Wellbeing Facilitators. I noticed when attending appointments that various Support Workers were covering the Reception Desk as they were short staffed. As I had always worked in an office environment I offered to help out a couple of afternoons a week as a way of a thank you to the charity and that was when things really took off!

I had been working on the Reception desk for almost a year when the Volunteer Co-ordinator started working at Gateshead Carers and it was once I went through my Induction with her and found out about the different types of volunteering roles that were on offer that I became even more involved. 

The first job that I took on helping with was manning a stall along with members of staff at various events advertising Gateshead Carers and also the charity’s Volunteering Programme. I found this a great way of spreading the word to the local community about what an unpaid carer is, and also we were able to make links with other organisations at the various events which we attended.

I then became a Community Connector finding out what was on offer in my local community for unpaid carers to get involved in and distributing Information Packs to local libraries, churches and community centres advertising Gateshead Carers. 

I was then approached to join the Carers Knowledge Panel which meets to discuss various important issues which can affect unpaid carers. I think this is a great thing as all of the members of the panel are unpaid carers themselves, so between us all have a vast range of experience of being carers.

Then the biggest surprise of all happened and that was when I started blogging for Gateshead Carers. I still wonder now if Covid-19 had not appeared would I have ever taken up blogging, probably not, as I’ve got to say it is not something I would have ever dreamed of doing. 

How it all began was when the first Lockdown happened and at the end of the first week I sent an email to all the staff working at GCA just checking on how they were all doing. The main reason I did this, was because I knew that not only were all the staff working from home but that some of them being unpaid carers themselves had even more to think about plus some of the staff like myself had to shield due to medical conditions.

This one email then suddenly became a weekly one. After a couple of months doing this, I received some lovely feedback and a request asking if I would like to blog for Gateshead Carers. And so here I am writing for Susie’s World!

Well, what is next I hear you ask, I would like to say helping Matt Baker with Children in Need’s Rickshaw Challenge but as it takes me all of my time to get my legs over my scooter I don’t think there would be much chance of me riding a bicycle although if it was a tandem then I would be there like a shot as riding off into the sunset with Matt Baker leading the way would be my idea of heaven!

Well, I must go now as I have come over all giddy ha ha!

So, I will just finish off by saying if you are thinking of volunteering then go for it as it is a great way of meeting new people, making new friends and contributing to your local community.  Also it can be a great way of learning a new skill, increasing self confidence and best of all you are helping others whether they be members of the public or a Charity or Organisation such as Gateshead Carers.

Take care of yourselves and speak soon.

Susie x