Mike’s story

Mike has recently started working for Community Navigators Bristol, our new service which improves the wellbeing of isolated older people by connecting them with their community.

“Being involved with the Community Navigators has given me new momentum. I had got a bit stale but now I have new purpose and I find the challenge of the task invigorating. I also get a buzz out of meeting people and trying to help them with their various difficulties.”

“Doing this voluntary work is fulfilling for me and it is bound to be benefiting me in all sorts of ways,” says Mike. “I’ve already been able to link someone with an interest in carpentry to a very friendly wood-working group. Another person who had been a chef was delighted when we told him that there was a ‘kitchen on prescription’ which helps people cook for their particular medical condition.”

Other volunteers have accompanied people to tai chi groups and local knitting groups. “There are so many groups that cater for a wide range of interests,” says Mike, “and part of what we do is to match them up. Often the social part of it is more important than the actual activity.” It’s a privilege to help people with what often feels to be their most pressing need: contact with other people, says Mike. “Isolation can lead to despair. It is a great pleasure to be able to help people break out of it and be invigorated by companionship and activity.”

Building confidence

All about commitment Mike got ready for his role by shadowing a Bristol Community Health physiotherapist on her home visits, then going along with experienced Community Navigators before meeting people alone. He also attended our group training sessions to prepare for the role and find out more about things like health and safety and equality and diversity.

What kind of person makes a good volunteer? According to Mike, “it would be difficult to be in a caring role without being a caring person. It’s essential that I’m sensitive and tactful all the time. I also have to be skilled at reading between the lines, without making assumptions – and challenging myself to stop my own preferences colouring my judgement.”

With many volunteering opportunities at Bristol Community Health, the main thing is that you want to do something practical for people, Mike believes. “Volunteering is a very rewarding way of using your time to help people in the community. Most roles don’t require a great deal of time, but consider the commitment you’re making so that you can always play your part wholeheartedly.”

If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Greg Juckes on greg.juckes@nhs.net or 0117 440 9178.