Abbeyfield, a local charity which provides housing and support for older people, recently hosted an ‘Inspiring Volunteers’ conference to explore the magic and power of storytelling, drama, music, dance, gardening and reminiscence.
Volunteers from across Northern Ireland attended the event and learnt practical skills* to help engage with older people and encourage residents to connect, socialise, share stories and ultimately have fun and laugh together.
Abbeyfield has a long history of volunteer involvement and currently has 63 active volunteers, aged from 16 to 85. The charity also launched details of its new volunteer recruitment campaign at the event.
Congratulating volunteers for the invaluable role they play, Geraldine Gilpin, chief executive, Abbeyfield & Wesley Housing Association, said “Abbeyfield plays an important role in local society by providing a range of high quality accommodation and services to older people throughout Northern Ireland, from purpose-built apartments, right through to sheltered bungalows and flats, supported sheltered houses and residential care.
“Our vision is ‘making time for older people’ and we firmly believe that older people should be enabled to retain links within the local community. We see our volunteers as crucial in helping to achieve this. Their interactions with residents help to overcome loneliness and isolation and give a better quality of life to older people. They can make a huge difference to an older person’s wellbeing. On behalf of our residents and management I would like to pass on my sincere thanks to all of those wonderful volunteers who offer their time to help others.”
Mrs Gilpin added: “We are also launching our volunteer recruitment drive for 20 more volunteers. if this is something that might interest you please get in touch to find out more about the wide range of volunteering opportunities on offer. We are especially looking for volunteers in Bangor, Donaghadee, Newtownards, Ballycastle and Lurgan.”
Discussing the volunteering opportunities available at Abbeyfield, Sally Campton, Volunteer and Community Outreach Manager, stated “Our volunteers get up to all sorts of things – many roles just require your time, energy and enthusiasm. Some are involved in organising activities – from quizzes, film evenings, and craft mornings to singing, dancing and playing board games. Other volunteers help with gardening, assisting residents to get to the shops or understanding how to use an iPad and surf the web. Some have a befriending role, offering support to a particular individual. Others bring in their dogs for some pet therapy!
“In addition, some volunteers are involved in the administration side of things, others are board members, while other volunteers help with events and activities to promote Abbeyfield in the community. There are so many different ways people can contribute and each and every way is appreciated.”
Laura Kiely, who is a (mature) student, volunteers at Abbeyfield’s house in Greenisland. Laura discussed her experience there: “I found that, as a student with some free time on my hands, I wanted to help others and give something back to my local community. Honestly, volunteering with Abbeyfield is the most rewarding experience I have ever had, and I have volunteered with other organisations as well. I can see myself always volunteering here, no matter what else happens.
“With Abbeyfield it’s totally different to anywhere else. It’s like a wee family and the staff and residents make me feel so welcome. For anyone else thinking about it, it is the most worthwhile and rewarding thing you’ll ever do. Whenever I arrive, it’s the smiles on the residents’ faces as soon as they see me that lets me know I’m making a difference. I know the residents get a lot from me being there, and so do I.”
There are two Abbeyfield societies in Northern Ireland and both are charities. Abbeyfield Belfast Society operates seven supported sheltered houses in South and East Belfast. Abbeyfield & Wesley Housing Association manages 18 supported, sheltered houses in Ballycastle, Ballyclare, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Bangor, Carrickfergus, Donaghadee, Downpatrick, Greenisland, Holywood, Lurgan, Merville, Newtownards and Portstewart. In addition, the charity also runs a residential dementia care home in East Belfast and three sheltered schemes in Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey and Belfast.
If you would like to find out more about volunteering at Abbeyfield please call 028 93363558 or email firstname.lastname@example.org