“Seeing Sandra brightens up my life”
“I look forward to Thursdays, because that’s when Sandra comes to see me,” says Janice Augustin of her Marie Curie Helper volunteer Sandra Campbell. “It makes a big difference.” Janice, from Dalston, east London, has multiple sclerosis. Her Helper volunteer Sandra has been visiting her at home once a week since late 2012. Helper volunteers can accompany their clients to a social group, or get out and about with them. Or, as Sandra and Janice prefer, they can sit and talk. “We meet up for a couple of hours and I’ll tell Sandra about the TV programmes and films I’ve watched and we discuss them,” says Janice. “She tells me about the books she’s read. I like reading too so I might go and find that book.”
The pair have been firm friends since they were introduced by Marie Curie’s Helper service in east London, thanks to the team’s hard work in making a good match. Sandra says: “Janice and I started talking as if we’d been school friends or colleagues back in the 1980s. And we were asking each other ‘do you like this’ or ‘do you like that’? It just worked really well. It was so natural it was like having a really good speed date.” Sandra, who also has a job as an employment worker, says she enjoys knowing that she’s making a positive difference to Janice. Being a Helper volunteer has also given her a greater appreciation of her own life. “Sometimes, you have a bit of a moan and a groan about things that are silly and pointless and futile. And then I meet my client Janice and she’s always smiling. We really do have a good laugh. It brings a sense of satisfaction to me and it’s nice that it’s a two-way street. It’s very fulfilling.” The three most important qualities Helper volunteers should have are patience, understanding and time, says Sandra. “If you’ve got those things and you want to make a difference to someone’s life then I would say go ahead and do it. It’s very satisfying, it really is.” Janice adds: “It feels like support from a friend…I know I’ll see Sandra regularly, every Thursday, and it brightens up my life.”
How you can help
Although not available everywhere, the Marie Curie Helper service is expanding all the time. So if you are empathetic and understanding and would like to volunteer, call 0800 206 1461 or search for a role here.