Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Holidays from Home Volunteering: Introduction

May 11th, 2010 · No Comments

A scene from one of the many amazing vacations I've taken just this year, something I do indeed take for granted

Though I would have liked to do something related to my paper on English identity, I wasn’t confident enough that I could get deeper into the issue through interviews of participant observation, especially with a topic so latent and personal. Instead, I chose to look for volunteering opportunities around Norwich, hoping I could learn more about the community and ideally have it relate to my topic. Though I’m happy to have helped out (and want to continue to do so) at  Holidays from Home my (fairly long) search for a more relevant volunteering opportunity has actually shown me valuable things about the nature of charity and volunteering in the Norwich area and in Britain as a whole, which I’ll be addressing in subsequent posts.

Holidays from Home, as Sarah, who’s also volunteering for this group explained in her blog is a Norwich-based organization which provides “virtual holidays” to people who are ill, disabled, elderly and homebound. These holidays are multifaceted; they use books, sounds, the internet, films, and other media to give the traveler a comprehensive, intimate, life-like experience. Though just a few full holidays have been created in its four year existence, HFH just received a lottery-funded grant to offer 400 holidays to people in Norfolk.  Volunteers were needed to develop new holidays and tweak the old ones to be a bit more user-friendly.

Though I volunteered to do research and give notes of my travel experiences (that’s what Sarah’s doing) founder Claire Wade wanted me to spend time looking into how to incorporate Google Earth technologies (cheers, KQ) into the existing holidays (with which I’ve had mixed results). The idea is to provide a quick one link that could either lead directly to a tour or to a Youtube video so as to simulate views or travel in a more lifelike way than before. Any input from any Google Earth specialists or anyone who managed this for 310 would be much appreciated. More on HFH upcoming along with my thoughts on some similar organizations I came across in my search for volunteering. Also, I hope to throw in a few posts on some interesting parts of my English Identity research I didn’t get to address in more than a few sentences in my paper.

Tags: Aidan

An Interview with Terenia Morrison, Project Coordinator with Age Concern Norfolk

January 27th, 2010 · 2 Comments

     Over a cup of hot chocolate and a fruit scone, Terenia Morrison and I discussed the inner workings of Age Concern, a charitable organization which provides services to the elderly of the whole of the United Kingdom. In speaking with her, I became immediately aware that Terenia, a project coordinator with Age Concern’s Norfolk branch, is passionate about her career, and well-aware of the challenges that elderly of the UK face on a day-to-day basis. She has noticed the elderly “are not treated well in this country” and that “our community spirit is not particularly good here,” but believes that Age Concern is doing their part to improve the quality of life for elderly peoples throughout the UK.

     Age Concern provides many different products, programs and services to the aged of the UK, including: help with money matters; insurance information; assistance in obtaining energy subsidies; bereavement services; community development; out-reach posts; access to a care home database; and much more. Terenia mentioned two additional programs which I found especially touching. These were the Pabulum and call centre programs.

     At call centres across the UK, like the one in Buckinghamshire which opened in 2007, volunteers ring participants once a week to chat and offer a fun quiz which keep the mind active and alert. Terenia stated, “experience tells us that old people want warmth, friendship, and nourishment,” and that the loneliness the elderly so often feel “is palpable.” The call centre provides the friendship that so many aged people long for, and assuages the loneliness they might have felt otherwise.

     Pabulum is a program designed specifically for those elderly who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Pabulum frequently hosts “cafés,” themed, 2- or 3-hour sessions run entirely by volunteers consisting of music, lunch, and “reminiscence based activities,” according to the website. The closest Pabulum café venue can be found in nearby Costessey.

    Three of my own grandparents have passed away: I was witness to my own grandfather’s gradual deterioration as a result of Alzheimer’s, until he finally passed away in 2007; I watched my other grandfather pass away, also in 2007; I was lying on the bed next to my grandmother, holding her hand, as I watched her take her last breath, in 2005.

     Talking with Terenia was a very emotional experience, but one that was also refreshing. It is comforting to know that there are good people and charitable organizations that provide services that are so close to my own heart and my own experiences. Terenia Morrison and her fellow volunteers working with Age Concern are truly special people. Dedicating their time and energy to “improving the lives and providing… dignity to the people of Norfolk,” is a loving sacrifice which the most special people, and kindest hearts, are willing to make.

Tags: Anya