At least twice a week for over two years, volunteer Jean Rimmer has walked the ten minute journey from her home to the Belong village in Wigan. Once there, she enjoys spending the afternoon with residents, playing bingo, giving relaxing hand massages or simply having a chat over a hot drink in the Bistro. Ten years ago Jean, now 69, was diagnosed with cancer. She bravely battled the disease and, once fully recovered, decided to approach life with a different attitude.
“I was really poorly and it took four years for me to feel anything like normal. When I finally began to get well again I told myself, if I get over this I won’t waste a moment. I decided to join a good friend who had been working as a volunteer at the Belong village in Wigan, taking residents from the households into the Bistro for a one-to-one drink and a chat. This soon developed into bingo sessions and games afternoons by popular demand.
“On Mondays and Thursdays each week, I start the day doing the housework and pottering around in my garden. I leave home shortly after lunch to walk to Belong Wigan. When I get there, I often stop for a chat with staff and friends in the Bistro, before heading up to the Venue to prepare teas and coffees and set up the tables for bingo. My friend and I then wander over to the households and bring residents along to the Venue to begin the games afternoon.
“The residents play their own games, but with our help. We usually play three games before stopping for hot drinks and biscuits and then play a further three games before finishing the session. We don’t just play bingo; today for example we had a Halloween party. We made a cake and dressed up as witches with all the carers. We enjoyed games such as apple bobbing, enjoyed some dancing and had a buffet...we all had a wonderful time.
Loving every second
“Once we’ve taken the residents back to their households we wander down to the Bistro for another cup of tea and a chat with other staff and residents. Since I started working as a volunteer at Belong Wigan I’ve loved every second; I get so much out of it and the residents are my friends. One week when for some reason we didn’t have bingo, I decided to go to the households and give the residents some hand and arm massages and nail treatments. The residents really enjoyed this and valued the time someone was spending making them feel special, so I do it more often now.
“The way I see it is, I’ve got a lovely husband, children and grandchildren, so I get plenty of hugs. I know that there are people who don’t and I think that simple human contact such as a hand massage, someone to put their arms around you and hug you, to say how lovely you are...is everything.
“I get home at about quarter to five after my volunteer afternoons and start to make tea for myself and my husband. We’ve been married for almost fifty years and will celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary in February 2014, as well as both reaching the age of seventy in the same year. After sitting down to eat our meal and chat about the day, I leave my husband to wash up while I go upstairs for a soak in the bath.
“I like to watch the soaps after my bath and then it’s an early night for me.”