Name: Robert Colbert
Course: BA (Hons) Criminology - Year 1
Volunteer Role: Love to Move Volunteer, Norris Museum Volunteer
“I get more 'job satisfaction' in volunteering than I ever did in nearly thirty years working in accounting!”
What are your main duties and how do they benefit others?
My original role is a community outreach position assisting in reminiscence sessions for those living with all forms of dementia, Parkinson's disease and other forms of cognitive impairment, and their partners/carers. The aim of the session is to get people talking about their memories and whatever else they want to over a cuppa and a biscuit or three. These sessions take place on a Monday morning and are run in conjunction with the British Gymnastics Foundation's Love to Move programme, which offers a specially designed set of seated exercises designed to get older people moving and functioning better.
I have a number of volunteer roles with The Norris Museum in St Ives. After my first session with the Norris, I was asked if I would like to get involved with ‘Love to Move’ as they thought a male volunteer would be helpful to the male members of the group. Both parts of the session help those living with cognitive impairment to keep functioning and hopefully slow down the progress of their impairment. The session also gives some respite to the partners/carers as they get a chance to chat and interact with people outside their own homes.
I started volunteering with the museum in February this year and over the months I have also assisted with youth community outreach projects and museum event days. I have also taken on putting together their monthly newsletter and look after a lot of their social media output.
What have you enjoyed most about volunteering?
When I started volunteering, and I am sorry if this sounds like a cliché, I just wanted to do something that helps people and make some small difference, and I honestly believe my reminiscence and ‘Love to Move’ work does this. I get more 'job satisfaction' in one of these sessions than I ever did in nearly thirty years working in accounting!
What skills have you learnt and used during your volunteering?
Empathy for the partners and carers watching the person they know and love slowly slip away.
Patience while the person living with dementia/cognitive impairment try and find the words to put across what they are trying to tell you. Patience dealing with the kids on the youth project as they have been "volunteered" by their school to be there and are struggling to engage.
Listening to what you have been told and ask suitable follow-up questions or make suitable points.
Lastly, and most important of all, is how memory works. In my Dementia Friend training we were taught that one part of the brain holds what you would call normal memories but feelings are held in a separate part of the brain. So, while they may not remember the session or who you are, they may remember that they had been happy and had a good time.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I just wanted to help people. I have been relatively lucky in life, I have been married for nearly 24 years, both sets of parents are still around and are in relatively good health for their ages. The only thing that was not so good was being stuck in a job that I didn't enjoy and gave little to no job satisfaction, and only helped the shareholders of the company that I worked for. Life really is too short (sorry, another cliché). I resigned from my job, got my place at ARU and found my volunteering roles.
What is your favourite volunteering memory?
I have been tasked with helping one specific gentleman in the ‘Love to Move’ sessions who can now hardly communicate verbally and is unable to walk without the use of a stroller. After my first session with him he shook my hand and managed to just about force out "thank you". That one thing proved that getting involved has been one of my best decisions.
What are your future career aspirations?
I am a mature student looking for a career change into something that will last me until I retire (rather scarily, that would be under twenty years from when I should graduate), and I hope to find a place in the criminal justice sector somewhere. My initial thoughts are either victim support or something like youth justice or probation but I want to see what else the sector has to offer before deciding what direction to take. I am sure empathy, patience and listening will be good skills to hold in these areas.
Why do you love volunteering?
I can see that it makes a difference. What is just a simple insignificant thing to me can mean the world to someone else.
You can get so much more out of volunteering than what you actually put in. If anyone is thinking about doing some voluntary work but are unsure whether it is for them, just give it a go.
Are you inspired to start volunteering?
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