As part of our Volunteers’ Week 2016 profile series, I popped up to the University to speak with Enrych Berkshire befriender volunteer Maria Barden. Generously making time during the hectic exam season, Maria spoke to me about her experience of volunteering.
How did you get involved in volunteering?
I’m from Essex, and I’m here studying Language Sciences and Psychology. I had a year out after A-levels because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and in that time I did quite a lot of volunteering. I went to Sri Lanka and volunteered in a disabled orphanage, and I got involved in a couple of volunteer projects through working at Waitrose. I started to realise that I liked doing volunteering, and then when I came to Reading, I wanted to do something. I just found Enrych at the Union Volunteering Fair.
What does the volunteering involve?
It was, like, quite a long process really. They try and match you with someone who they think will suit; so I got matched with this lady. We just go out, like, once a week or every couple of weeks to a coffee shop or shopping or just on the bus. I think with other people (Enrych work with) they do activities and things, but with us it’s just about getting out really, spending time with each other and getting to know each other. She’s really nice, so, yeah, I really enjoy it.
What do you get out of it?
“Being a student, it’s quite easy to just laze around and not do anything: just sit in the pub and socialise or hang around the flat watching every series on Netflix. But I think coming back to the flat knowing I’ve done something that has genuinely helped someone, is a positive for me.”
I didn’t really have any expectation of who I’d get matched with, but she is someone who’s quite a lot older that me. But I think that the age difference between us is what makes it special really. It’s nice to be able to meet people that you wouldn’t really expect to go out with, but I also think that’s good for me.
What difference do you make to the person you are helping?
It gets her out really, ‘cos she’s housebound, and spending time with each other, getting to know each other. It’s one-to-one as well, so you’re going to get to know someone… Sometimes I give her a call and see how she is, so you’re actually building a relationship whilst you’re doing it… We have a laugh.
What would you say to someone who was thinking about volunteering?
I’d just say to do it! Because otherwise, you just don’t really do anything here that’s, like, meaningful or worthwhile apart from going to lectures… You’re actually doing something worthwhile for someone, helping someone more than you think that you can.
Inspired by Maria’s story? Take a look at opportunities to get involved with Enrych Berkshire and other befriending roles:
- Enjoy crafts and music? Fancy some trips out? This could be for you!
- Chess opponent wanted!
- Join this lady for trips out when the weather’s nice and baking and crafting when it’s not
- Pool player wanted to help this gentleman get out in his local community
- Accompany this lady on trips to the theatre and places of interest
- Help this gentlemen explore his local area
- Artistic/ poetic collaborator sought!
- Crafty and Sporty? Help this lady explore new interests
- Are you a budding marksman? Help this determined gentleman continue to pursue his interests
- Are you computer literate?
Not sure it’s for you? Not to worry there is plenty of other options to be found at www.rgneeds.me