Volunteer Awards 2019 – Ken Tudgay

Zoe OKill
Author's position
RVA Community Journalist
Article date
31 May 2019
Primary interest
How long have you been volunteering for ‘Thrive’ and what do you do for them?

I’ve been volunteering for about 27 years now. I’ve always been into gardening. A friend of mine told me about a project with ‘Thrive’ and asked for some help. I started to give any spare time I had. I was asked to build a pond for Thrive with a volunteer group I used to be a part of. A lady there asked me what I did in my spare time, she asked if I would like to come out and help with clients. I agreed and started helping with tasks like digging, weeding and slab laying. I started going out two days a week to help with clients. After I retired, I felt lost so I asked Thrive if I could come in more regularly.

We work in groups at Thrive helping to look after their own individual plots, planting seeds and potting plants. They decide what they would like to grow, and we work with them to help grow everything. For them to see the plant grow, they think it’s marvellous. They’ll put a potato in and think nothing’s going to happen, but when potato season comes around and it’s time to dig, they have a huge smile on their face when they dig up so many potatoes. Gardening is wonderful, everything that grows is a new life. The delight and shine on the client’s faces are amazing.

What made you start volunteering?

I started at Thrive because I love gardening. My dad had an allotment and we used to go there all the time, and I loved helping him. I grew vegetables for my family and friends in an allotment in Reading. I started to bring my vegetables to shows and began winning quite a lot. I just love gardening and I can’t spend all my time in my own garden, so that’s why I volunteer.

What difference do you feel your volunteering makes?

As I work with the clients, they start to come out of their shells, you become a person they trust. People who sometimes don’t like talking to other people find they have a voice. At the end of the day, they say they’ve had a good day, and when they say that I feel good. It makes me happy that I’ve made someone else happy. This is what it’s all about. When we finish at the end of the day at Thrive, a little brightness comes into the clients’ faces. That makes me happy knowing I’ve helped them.

I don’t know what makes people think people with learning difficulties and blind people or disabled people can’t do anything, because they can. They do what any other gardener would do.

What do you feel you get out of your volunteering?

I’ve had a good life. I like to keep busy because I want to give something back. Working with people and helping people is my objective. My reward is to see the smile on the clients’ faces. The fact that I’ve been able to help them is what I love. At the end of the day, they’re giving something back to me because they’ve filed my day. The involvement with the client is what it’s all about.

To me thrive has been a lifesaver, it keeps me going. It’s like a huge garden for me and I enjoy working there a lot. I know a lot of people that finish work and wonder what they’re going to do. I say, volunteer. There’s plenty of places that need volunteers, and loads of free time, so use it.

What word or phrase best describes your feelings about volunteering?

If anyone says they’re bored, I don’t know how or why they’re bored because they could volunteer. You have to keep busy and keep moving.