Check In and Chat: Sinead's Volunteer Experience Sinead has been volunteering with Age NI’s Check in and Chat service since November 2020. She has shared with us what it is like supporting an older person with a weekly phone call. “I started volunteering with Age NI after the COVID-19 Pandemic hit. Like many people I wanted to do something to help. I had worked with older people in the past, so when I read about the Check in and Chat service I was keen to get involved. Getting started was such an easy process. I took part in an online training session with other volunteers where we were talked through what the role would involve and we were given a framework for the types of things we could talk about on our calls. It was lovely meeting the other volunteers, and really gave me a feeling of being part of something important. I got matched with a lovely woman called Caroline, who was living on her own. I still remember talking to Caroline for the first time. We had such a lovely conversation. We talked about our backgrounds and where we live. We discovered, very quickly, that we both share a love of dogs! I had just got a new puppy and Caroline had two of her own and she had loads of tips and advice on being a dog owner. In those first few conversations it was hard to avoid the topic of Covid. I think chatting about Covid was helpful for both of us at the time. It was good to have someone who we could mull things over with; someone who we could share our concerns and anxieties with. Caroline shared with me that she had caught Covid right at the start of the pandemic and that she had unfortunately been suffering from the effects of long covid ever since. The impact of the virus has been long lasting for Caroline. She used to travel and she loved taking long walks with her dogs. The effects of long covid have unfortunately left her prone to bouts of fatigue and headaches, and as a result she very rarely leaves the house now. Which is why our weekly calls are so important to her. Caroline has told me that she really looks forward to our chats each week and that they give her a connection to normality. I think it is so important to have someone asking you how your week’s been or what you’ve got up to that day, it helps you to feel you are connected to the wider world. I’ve got even more out of volunteering than I expected to. I really look forward to my calls with Caroline every Tuesday evening. I love catching up with her and hearing about what’s she’s been doing during the week, and of course I love hearing about how her dogs are doing. We have become so comfortable talking to one another, and we talk about anything and everything now. Caroline is so easy to talk to. We put the world to rights for an hour every week and we make each other laugh. Being able to volunteer for a telephone service has been really fantastic. I don’t live close to Caroline, so I wouldn’t have been able to get to know her if it hadn’t been for the Check in and Chat service. As life gets busier it continues to be such an easy ask as well, I know that I can set aside that hour every week without having to worry about travel time or anything like that. It’s very convenient and we’re both getting so much out of it. Age NI is doing great work to help people cope with loneliness and isolation. Even though life is returning to normal for some of us, that’s not the case for everyone, and it’s really more important than ever to stay connected. A service like this is still so important for people like Caroline who are more at risk from Covid, or those who are still not comfortable with being out and about. Volunteering for Age NI has been such a valuable experience, I’ve gotten to know Caroline and I love hearing about her life. We have a connection now that means a lot to both of us.” Read more about Caroline here. Last year Age NI’s Check in and Chat service helped 509 people, with the support of 438 volunteers. If you’re interested in becoming an Age NI volunteer please visit the Get Involved section of our website where you can find information about all of our current volunteer vacancies.