This week our guest blog from Sandy Stewart, Groups and Support Assistant at Cyrenians OPAL (Older People Active Lives).
4 years ago I was medically retired due to issues with my back. After 2 failed operations it became clear that the medical profession was not going to be my knight in shining armour. After feeling sorry for myself for a bit and blaming as many people as I could, I came to the realisation that only I could change my future. With this new positive outlook I decided to try volunteering to try to ease myself back into getting about and being useful.
I knew one of the coordinators at Cyrenians so I asked if there was anything I would be able to do with them as a volunteer. After a chat about what I was looking for, what I could manage and what I was good at we decided I would have a go at volunteering at the groups that they put on for older people to help out however I could. It was only a couple of hours a week but it was a start.
I thought that doing this would be good for the groups and a helping hand for Cyrenians, but I reckon it was me that got the biggest benefit. I hadn’t realised how socially isolated I had become due to my health. I was now mixing with people and having fun. We played games, had quizzes and reminisced about days gone by.
As time went by I became able to do more and more and so started volunteering as a driver too. I loved the stories people would tell me about their younger days while we were travelling from place to place.
As my health had improved dramatically I applied to become a sessional groups assistant when the opportunity arose in 2017. I was successful and low and behold I was now being paid for doing something that I loved! Fast forward a year and I am lucky enough to now have permanent employment with the Cyrenians OPAL (Older People Active Lives) service in West Lothian.
There were times back in 2014 when I thought I would never work again. I had even resigned myself to the idea even although I was only 50 years old at the time. They say ‘from tiny acorns mighty oaks do grow’ and I must admit, without that glimmer of hope that volunteering gave me I think that I would still be stuck at home wondering “what did I do to deserve this.”
I am so glad that I decided to volunteer a little bit of my time. The outcome has taken me to places I could never have dreamed of.
Sandy Stewart, 11th January 2019
You can find out about volunteering with Cyrenians OPAL here.