Volunteering with older or disabled people – why do it?
I only started volunteering with an older, disabled woman about halfway through my first term in second year. I’d wanted to do it for a while, but always thought I had no time and was too busy. I think I watched a YouTube video about loneliness in older people and it really hit home with me; my granddad had recently died, leaving my grandma to live alone. It must be so hard to be completely alone after always being able to rely on someone, maybe with your children all grown up and living far away from you. I can’t even imagine that kind of loneliness, especially when you’re suffering with health problems and losses all around you.
That’s why I decided to just take some time out of the week and chat to someone. There are loads of things like that in Cambridge, I just walked into the Student Community Action centre and signed up. They matched me with someone nearby and now I go round her house every couple of weeks.
Honestly, it feels so good to be able to help someone so easily. There are so many things in life that are totally out of our control, sometimes it can feel overwhelming and debilitating just watching the news and seeing the state of the world. But volunteering with someone is the easiest thing ever and it really makes a positive difference to that person’s life.
Plus, it’s really good for you to learn about things that aren’t just studying at university, and most people have really interesting lives and refreshingly honest opinions. I love going to see the lady I volunteer with mostly because she can really put things into a perspective that I need.
So really, I’m not just helping her but she’s massively helping me, and always offering advice and texting to ask how I am.
I also feel like we have a responsibility to look out for each other generally, if you saw someone who needed a hand up then you would help them, and this is no different.
Volunteering just generally teaches you how to consider the world outside of yourself, even when university might be making you think your studies are the most important thing in the world. It also shows you that many of the things we hold up as important in life, like looking good, having lots of things, making money, etc, are really just trivial things.
At the end of the day we all grow old and we all need each other to be okay, and as a volunteer you can be a friend to people that don’t have anyone. You can be a tiny help in the overwhelming world of terrible things that feel out of control, but it’s definitely something and even making a difference to one person’s life is everything to that one person.