"Why not volunteer?"

This was the suggestion that the Deputy Manager at SeeAbility's Reeves Court made when after my second interview as a support worker, we mutually decided that after over 35 years working as a salesman, it might not be wise to accept such a completely different position!

I had applied because I was finding my current job unrewarding and Jenny, my wife, was becoming concerned about my frustration and job dissatisfaction. Jenny had noticed the job advertised in a local paper and suggested that I applied, despite me having had no experience of working with people with disabilities. I took the manager’s suggestion to apply to become a volunteer and was pleased to be accepted.

After about four years as a volunteer, I applied for a position as a support worker and was appointed to work in the Millennium Centre. I later became the volunteer co-ordinator for SeeAbility in Leatherhead where I remained until my retirement, after which I continued as a volunteer. In 2006 Jenny also became a volunteer at the Millennium Centre!

We have both enjoyed all aspects of our time at SeeAbility, including the many and varied activities in Leatherhead… the Wild Cats’ drama group, the Merry Singers’ choir, craft sessions, swimming, organising summer and Christmas Church visits, as well as minibus outings to theatres, museums, the seaside and National Trust properties.

A few years ago we were pleased to be asked to undertake one to one interviews with the people supported at SeeAbility sharing their memories with us. We both found this process very rewarding.

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When the suggestion, “Why not volunteer?” was made to me at my original interview, little did I know how much being involved at SeeAbility would change both our lives.

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There are two phrases or strap lines in the world of volunteering - “Volunteering changes lives” and “Volunteers live longer”. I have now been retired for over eight years so I hope that we both continue to prove the second phrase to be true!

These weeks of the lockdown are the longest period we have had without any direct contact with anyone at SeeAbility whether staff, other volunteers or of course the tenants and residents. We have missed everyone greatly and are looking forward to when we can return and resume our activities again.

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By SeeAbility Volunteer Peter Delafond

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