In the voluntary sector we are infamous for not having much hard data about what we do, but instead having hundreds of lovely stories to illustrate how we help people.  We are always working on ways to bring together some more black and white facts and figures, but we still love a story too!  Pam was referred to us by her GP in Summer 2019, back when the world was normal!  Since then our Wellbeing Co-ordinator Teresa has worked with her to help her improve her own health and wellbeing, and these have helped her navigate the pandemic in a more positive and optimistic way than she may have without these things in place.

When we first met her, Pam had become very isolated.  She had IBS and was so anxious about needing the toilet when she was out that she had just stopped going out altogether.  We met her at home to get to know her better and understand what her life was like now, what she missed about her life before her diagnosis, and what she wanted to achieve.  She set herself a goal to simply to get out for a short walk every day.

We suggested the HOPE course to her as a way to build her confidence.  HOPE stands for Help Overcoming Problems Effectively and is a group coaching course.  She was interested, but very anxious about being out of the house and in a group.  We explained that everyone in the group would be anxious about it in one way or another and they would all support each other.  She agreed to come along.

At the start of the first session, Pam was visibly trembling and very quiet.  But by the end of that first two hours, she had relaxed and was interacting with the group.  She even felt comfortable enough to share that she had previously had breast cancer, and more recently had been having suicidal thoughts.

By the end of the six week course, she had made new friends, who she is still in touch with now.  She was getting out into her garden again and met that goal to go for a short walk every day.  Not only that, but she did a sponsored walk for a Breast Cancer charity and showed off her medal proudly to the rest of the group afterwards.  Not only had she made this huge achievement, but she knew she’d helped others too through collecting sponsorship, so that really boosted the feel good factor for her.

Pam told us that when she’s out gardening or walking she completely forgets about her health issues.  She feels like herself again.  She’s more cheerful and optimistic.  Her IBS hasn’t gone away, but now that it’s not the main thing in her life, so she’s not letting it stop her any more.

We have stayed in touch with Pam throughout the pandemic.  All the anxieties and stress related to Covid made her IBS flare up but we were able to talk through all the strategies she learned on the HOPE course to help her feel more positive.  She set goals for herself such as daily walks, gentle gardening, feeding the birds.  She challenged herself to make a new soup, using ingredients that were IBS friendly.  Through her GP, she is also working with the Social Prescribing Link Worker and Dietician to ensure she keeps progressing.

If you, or someone you know, would benefit from the support of a Wellbeing Co-ordinator, please call us on 01626 771696 or email info@volunteeringinhealth.co.uk to make a referral.