Purple Flame goes volunteering
Purple Flame has been working within the charity sector for over 14 years and over this period we've been involved in supporting our clients in a range of ways - from volunteering on a building site with Habitat for Humanity and jumping out of planes on a sponsored skydive for Asphaleia through to some pro bono work for a local small refugee charity. Recently, I've been challenged by the idea of volunteering on a more regular basis and have been looking at what's available locally. I've passed through Bond Street tube station a few times, and a poster advert kept catching my eye, promoting the work of Contact the Elderly - so after a few months of prevarication, I decided to take the plunge and get involved.
Contact the Elderly is the only national charity solely dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation among older people - it's supported by a network of volunteers and organises monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people, aged 75 and over, who live alone. As a volunteer driver I would be collecting an older person and taking them to a volunteer host’s home for the afternoon. The group is warmly welcomed by a different host each month, but the drivers remain the same which means that over the months and years, acquaintances turn into friends and loneliness is replaced by companionship.
A lot of our work at Purple Flame takes us around the world, to varying degrees of poverty, exclusion and isolation, so this seemed an ideal way of engaging with similar issues in a local context. After submitting an application and being vetted by one of their staff, it was time for the first Sunday drive and tea-party. It was a beautiful early summers day as I pulled up outside my nominated persons house and helped them into the car. This was to be a particularly special trip, as the person hosting the tea was celebrating their 40th year of being involved - although it was a bit further away than usual, it was a great day to head into the country. As drivers, we are invited to join in with the afternoon and have the bonus of being offered tea and cake as well - this time round it was a great setting in an old country house, with donkeys and dogs wandering in and out of the garden!
I'm looking forward to being involved with the charity and getting to know the group of people that I will meet each month. The tea parties are a real lifeline of friendship for the older guests who have little or no contact with family or friends, bringing people of all ages together, developing fulfilling friendships and support networks, and giving everyone involved something to look forward to each month.