Heather Conlin started to volunteer with us in October 2013. Heather has grown to be an important part of the LIHH team and provides support to clients through our befriending service. This involves Heather visiting 3 clients a week and connecting in with them for a chat. For many clients this weekly connection breaks a cycle of isolation or helps them to have a friendly face to ask for advice and guidance. Often Heather will go out for a coffee or a walk with them as well.
Heather originally connected with Leeds Irish Health and Homes by attending our Carer’s Group. Her husband Richard had MS and unfortunately passed away in November 2012. This is when Heather became interested in finding out more about volunteering with LIHH.
Heather notes: “I had been a carer for several years as my husband Richard had progressive MS. We had lived in Galway for several years before returning to Leeds with our three children for family support and healthcare. I was a trained nurse, and worked for the NHS for many years, so caring was what I did. We sadly lost my husband Richard in 2012. I felt so redundant. To have the commitment of all this care, and then for it to suddenly stop was very hard for me.”
Heather started to explore the potential to volunteer with us in October 2013 and following an informal chat with Sarah, who manages and supports our volunteers, she undertook an induction and some training and also shadowed some staff on visits.
Heather makes such a difference to the lives of people she visits but also highlights how volunteering has changed her life. “Since becoming a volunteer it has helped me re-build my life, I am re-connecting with the life I had before I was a carer. I had felt disconnected from the world and volunteering has helped build my confidence. I am linking up with other agencies and tapping into the workforce again. I attend the Women’s Group at LIHH and have recently set up a Bereavement Group. I look forward to the visits with clients; I feel I do something useful for them. It gives me the focus getting to know people, and I can identify with some of the difficult times they have experienced. Also helping to build their confidence is very rewarding for me.
I would highly recommend volunteering with LIHH – the ongoing training and support is wonderful. The organisation really invests in you. I am much happier and aiming to get back into paid employment and volunteering is helping me on this path.”