'Nobody should have to be Alone'
A seasoned VHI Women’s Mini Marathon participant, Dubliner Amy Cambell also volunteers for ALONE, a charity that provides support and companionship to older people.
“I started volunteering with ALONE last year, on foot of a conversation I had with my husband. I completed a couple of evening training sessions and was matched with someone near where I live a couple of months later.
The remit of ALONE is to help people age at home with independence and dignity. They aim to prevent people from becoming socially isolated, which can be so damaging to physical and mental health. They provide support to older people with befriending (visitors) as well as practical help like information on accessing social services and tradespeople etc.
My role is as a befriender, meaning I visit a lady in her home each week. I go to see her on a Thursday after work for an hour or so. It is one of the highlights of my week!
There is so much about it that I enjoy. "My" lady is great company - she is sharp and witty. We have great chats. She tells me so much about her upbringing and working life. In the time I have been visiting her it has evolved into a friendship and it is a pleasure and privilege to get to know her. She has a lovely family of children, grandchildren and siblings but can't get out very much. We are guided by ALONE to visit for an hour a week but I often find myself noticing I have been there for almost two hours. I think I get as much or more out of it than her!
This type of volunteering is so rewarding and interesting. I love doing it. It could be us, our parents, or friends who are alone and in need of company at any time so we need to be aware of this. For various reasons, people become isolated at home - maybe they are not from Ireland or the town they live in, they may be widowed or estranged from family or just ill and not able to engage with their community. This way the community can go to them.
My first VHI Women’s Mini Marathon was back in 1999 when I did it with my mum, Jackie. We have only missed two since then and it is a highlight in our calendars each year.
At that first one, we were amazed at the sheer number of people there. We naively arrived at the start time and couldn't believe how far back we were. After the starting gong, we could only shuffle towards the start line because of the crowd, which took just over half an hour. That year, Sonia O'Sullivan won it in, I think, 28 minutes...she was slipping off her runners as we crossed the start line!
Another one that stands out is last year - doing it in torrential rain, wearing plastic disposable ponchos we had bought. It was the best €2 we’ve ever spent!”
For more information on ALONE, go to www.alone.ie