Abi Murray (Operations Manager at The Chatty Café Scheme) caught up with Amy Carr (Chatty Telephone Volunteer) to understand what it’s like to volunteer at The Chatty Café Scheme?
So Amy, what made you decide to get into volunteering?
I was crazy busy with work and at an age where I was coming up to retirement. I knew I needed to slow down, and part of me was looking forward to this, but work gave me so many opportunities to interact with people. I loved being around people at work (it helped that my colleagues were fab), chatting in the staff kitchen over a cup of tea and hearing about people’s lives.
I was worried about how I’d feel once this all stopped. Would those opportunities for social interaction that I got so often through work still present themselves once I’d left my job? I wanted to be kept busy but in my own time and was looking for a volunteering role that could be part of my life but not take over it, as I was keen to ensure there was time for other things.
Why did you choose to volunteer with The Chatty Café Scheme?
Reflecting on my own skills, I thought about the things I enjoy and this includes talking and relating to people. I think I get my energy though interacting with others.
After coming across the Chatty Café Scheme on social media, I applied to be a Chatty Telephone Volunteer. Giving 30 minutes a week to make a call felt like a manageable amount of time to give and a nice step into volunteering. I also liked that I could do this role from home and in my own time.
What’s your experience been like so far?
I’m now into my 4th call with Sandra (my beneficiary who receives my weekly calls). I was a little nervous at first; what would we talk about/would we have anything in common, etc, but my fears got pushed aside after we started chatting.
Our initial call was me doing about 90% listening and 10% talking, but this is changing each week and is now more of a 50/50 balance.
I’m conscious to not go into ‘counselling’ mode and not give advice, as we’re not professionals and simply here to have a chat. I know Sandra really appreciates having someone to chat to and we are getting into a good ‘flow’ and both enjoying our weekly catch ups.
Any tips for other Chatty Telephone Volunteers?
I make some brief notes during each call, especially noting things that I think make Sandra smile. This helps me remember our discussion and any questions I might have that I could ask during future calls. I think that by remembering things from our discussions, it gives Sandra the confidence that I’m listening and that someone out there really does care.
I try to not ignore the things that make Sandra sad, but also try not to focus on them either. It feels good to help Sandra focus on the positives and to sense that by having a weekly chat, her loneliness is ‘getting better.’
I know I can’t ‘fix’ the lady and nor is this my role to do so, but I do feel that in just a 30-minute chat, this can improve how she feels. In fact, the calls help me feel better too.