I honestly am so thankful for the kindness that my perfect stranger has shown. A lot of thought has gone into the gifts & a lot of gratitude is felt. I cannot believe how perfect the gifts are!! Excited to take part in the next swap!
This weekend has been a volunteering one. The PDSA was open for staff and volunteers, so business resumed as normal. We did lots of sorting, hanging and restocking.
I volunteered all day at the PDSA yesterday; I was back home. It reopens this Friday and it should be busy, successful and lively.
Today I spent my day volunteering with Umbrella. It was a relaxed day at Umbrella House, spent crafting, playing games and having fun. As usual the young people were amazing and surprised me in the most inspirational ways.
I have received 2 lovely ‘thank you’ cards from pupils this week. Just to thank me for being kind to them in the past 2 years; supporting them to reach their full potential. These cards mean a lot to me as it shows that my hard work and kindness have paid off, and they appreciate this.
These pupils are 2 of a cohort that I have supported all the way through their GCSEs. I’ve watched their classes change from children into mini-adults and that is lovely. All of their daily dramas have helped to develop their emotional and social awareness. Their appreciation reflects how I feel when I have supported them, except my appreciation has been towards them. I appreciate how much they have just tried.
So you don’t get paid?
(Please excuse the formatting, my laptop has died!)
Volunteering is what I’m meant to do.
It just is. Some people believe they were born to be a mother, an athlete, a nurse; I believe I was born to volunteer.
I started volunteering for a charity when I was 17, just to gain a bit of work experience. I never left & that was eight years ago. Then, at the age of 22, I started volunteering with a second charity. That was three years ago. I adore both.
The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals.
The PDSA is the charity I started volunteering for first. At my local PDSA charity shop. I was 17 & encouraged at home to volunteer to gain some experience. I think they probably just meant a few months, not 8 years. I volunteer as a sales assistant on the shop floor.
When I started, I was paired with a wonderful elderly lady. She ‘showed me the ropes’ (to her high standards) & ensured that I had company. After a couple of years, her husband became increasingly unwell & she took some time away from volunteering once she was satisfied that I was up to scratch. Over the next year leading to her husbands passing, she became more frail & hasn’t returned to us. She’s still very much part of our team & pops in regularly to let us know how she is.
Once she had left, my confidence and independence continued to grow. On a Saturday, there is a relatively high turn over of shop floor staff as they often choose the PDSA as the volunteering part for their Duke of Edinburgh Award. Once they have achieved their bronze/silver/gold award, priorities and logistics tend to change. Exams take over, university placement, paid employment. Lots of young volunteers move on to paid employment & that isn’t disappointing, it’s rewarding. Rewarding to know that their volunteering experience has allowed them to move on to the next stage of their life. Many are upset to leave as they have made new friends that they would not have met otherwise.
I have met some of the best people I could wish to meet. Not best because we are similar and comfortable in each other’s company, but best because we all have our new own story.
Volunteer age ranges from fourteen to in the eighties. I have learned and gained so much.
Ive gained a friend so close she classes as family. She’s been stuck with me for 8 years and does just that; sticks with me through thick and thin. She’s a life long friend.
There is different reasons for people to volunteer at the PDSA, but they tend to fall under the same categories. To socialise, gain experience and keep busy. These overlap and for some, this volunteering is a crucial part of their life, numerous times a week.
When the shop was closed due to arson in February 2015, it left some volunteers lost.
Volunteering is their reason to leave the house and without it what was the point? This month it is reopening & it is lovely to see how excited our older ladies are. Many of them have been with the PDSA for eleven years, since it opened, and now it is where they go to share and make memories
I am fiercely loyal to our volunteers, staff and customers. Our charity shop is my home. It has hugely increased my confidence and I have gained transferable skills that have been invaluable.
In two years, I will have volunteered with the PDSA for ten years. I cannot wait.
Visit their Facebook page.
Umbrella was the second charity that I started volunteering for. They do some truly wonderful work with children and young people with a disability and their carers. Umbrella support children from 5 years old to young people aged 30 to be integrated in society. Please see their website for the services that they can offer.
I didn’t start volunteering with umbrella with a selfless motive, I started to expand on my disability knowledge and experience. However, I continue selflessly because I really do care a lot about their service users.
I volunteer with Umbrella throughout school holidays and weekends…if I could I would give my time to them daily.
They have a house in Mackworth, Derby where they provide lots of support. They have a kitchen for children and young people to use, a garden room leading to their beautiful garden (garden improvement is this years project), a sensory room and a central room. For days based at Umbrella House many an activity takes place. Baking, outdoor play, arts & crafts, wii/playstation gaming, reading, party games, films etc. Most importantly, these activities are in a safe environment where children & young people can be independent but always supported. Umbrella run many trips that their children and young people may not be able to experience otherwise. Many also have the opportunity to have 1-1 support routinely. Children and young people refer to Umbrella as their morning/day/evening to see their friends.
Umbrella staff are truly selfless in their role. They are all trained to provide specific support, but most importantly they are patient, innovative and happy.
I am very passionate about this charity and the work that they do. I honestly love the children and young people that use the service. Just the thought of them brightens my day and their perseverance and achievements, inspire me daily.
Visit their Facebook page.
Why do I volunteer?
I volunteer because it’s nice to be nice, isn’t it? Volunteering gets the endorphins going inside of me, I get a buzz. It improves my mental health, when I don’t want to do anything, I always find that scrap of motivation to volunteer. The PDSA are so understanding, they let me volunteer whenever I choose, on top of my regular Saturday, they know the benefits of being busy. And in turn it helps them too. Volunteering makes me proud, it’s my biggest achievement. It means that I socialise with others. I constantly build my skills and quality development. It makes me genuinely happy. Happier than any medication or therapy.
I truly believe that everyone could benefit from volunteering, there are so many different opportunities.
Visit Do-It for local opportunities.
As I’ve said before, it’s nice to be nice isn’t it?
When I thought about this blog post, I thought ‘there’s probably a couple of bits I can pull together. I’ll really put the effort in next week’. However, the more I thought about it, the more I was surprised that there were more ways than I realised.
My job involves kindness; it could be argued that kindness is at the core of the role and it is practiced so often that the gratitude gets lost. However, I have not been at work this week, does that mean I am kind from within? It is an unconscious way of my life?
Kindness to family
I arranged to meet with my Nana on Wednesday. The planned project was to ‘sort the shed‘. To organize it, to weed through obsolete items, rearrange existing items. It was to take a few hours; 10am-4pm was set aside.
I arrived at 10am, prepared with old clothes and garden gloves. A hot cross bun…just in case. As I got out of the car I greeted her gardener/friend, she really had got the outdoor team together this morning. I joined immediately, she had already started…cleaning. Who cleans objects that live in their shed?! I did the heavy work, lifted and shifted the tiles (tiles in the shed?), heaved numerous boxes up the steps to the ‘sorting table’, relocated the paint tubs, the compost and gravel. Nana helped as her ageing body allowed, she lightened the boxes, carried the lighter items, cleaned (cleaned?).
There was a lunch break, a couple of rehydration stops, take the weight off your feet pauses. During these breaks, small projects continued. I put back together the windchime. Patience was necessary.
Slowly we made progress. We made a good team. The tools were sorted…methodically. It pleased us both. It was decided that unneeded tools would be given to a charity that refurbishes these and uses them in the UK and East Africa to aid vocational training projects. See Workaid for an example of this.
The shed looked good…that was probably due to the cleaning.
I drove my Mum to the cinema to see a film of her choice. We saw ‘A Royal Night Out’, it was enjoying. An uplifting film that did not require much thought. Perfect.
Kindness to my fake twin, my best friend and housemate
I’m not brilliant at empathy or even sympathy; self-confessed. I am improving these with the young people that I work with, but in a more personal setting there is a long way to go. What I am good at, is practical support. Their clothes wash, cooking dinner, the cleaning. This form of support is most definitely in my genes from my Dad.
Kindness to animals
Does this count?
The school guinea pig came to stop with me this week (you can read about his experience here). I can’t say I’m knowledgeable about guinea pigs, I know the basics but not to guru level. Cue googling. We had decided that Jerry had put weight on since his housemate had passed away, there was no one to run around and share food with. Google – healthy snacks for guinea pigs, what shouldn’t guinea pigs eat?, how much food/snacks should they have? And his monitored eating started. His vegetables were vitamin heavy and the correct amount of each one per week. If I was eating clean, he would be too. It was in his best interest.
We did try increasing his exercise level, but I can’t say it went well for either of us, as recounted in the review blog linked above. We both ended up under my bed, neither of us able to move effectively.
Jerry even got a new water bottle this week. A smaller size than he is used too, but this means he will have fresh water more often. Best of all, there is no leaking! His bedding (in that area) now remains dry.
He’s had a quieter week but he seems to have enjoyed that.
Does this count? Being kind to yourself?
This week I have increased my self-respect for my body. My diet has been clean, hydrated, my exercise consistent. I can feel the appreciation, my body is thanking me. It has not been sluggish, bloated, achey. This has further prompted more free-from food, vegetarian (some vegan) food, even more fruit and veggies.
I have given myself time. Time to rest. Time to rediscover what it really is that drives me.
The PDSA charity shop I volunteer in, was closed in February due to arson. That is right, a charity shop set alight in order to break into the safe. Original article can be viewed here. Therefore, we have been campaigning for stock over the past 5 months. Without it, the shop will not be able to reopen, money won’t be made, animals will not be cared for. This week the reopening date was made official here. This is in 3 weeks, therefore I need to step up my part in the campaign. I am using word of mouth, facebook and email.
My garage is getting full and only set to get fuller as friends, acquaintances and colleagues donate.
I cannot say much about this project yet (expect a blog post soon). Chumbrella is aiming to bring people together through spreading their kindness and friendliness. The idea is people use their umbrellas to spread awareness of this social art project. For example, an elderly passer by is struggling with her shopping in the pouring rain – you share your shelter with her. Do that little bit extra, do not ignore. Ask if they would like a hand, how their day has been, why you are holding a large yellow and white umbrella. Firstly, the lady would hopefully be appreciative, someone had taken the time, she was not getting as wet, her back was no longer aching. Secondly, she would hopefully pass her experience on to others. Therefore, hopefully they will follow your example. They do not have to get a #Chumbrella, but hopefully they will be kind to that extra person. Although the passer by may not be able to physically help someone else, she could speak to someone new, smile at them in the street, ask how their day has been.
The Perfect Stranger Project
A second project that I signed up for this week. You may have read about this project in my previous post. This one is about being kind to others and yourself. Putting the thought and effort into what you think your partner may like to receive, or what would represent you. Then feeling the excitement and privilege that your partner has put the same thought and effort into your package. The chance that your partner could be a friend for life, a soulmate and you did not even know they existed in this world.
Further information and the opportunity to sign up can be found on their website.
It was half-term for Jerry last week; so he packed his bag and went on holiday.
So a holiday was an escape from the day-to-day, just what he needed. A Bed and Breakfast that he had been to before. He knew the owner there and he knew he could just wind down; ready for the next 8 weeks.
Jerry gets a lot of snacks at school (some say this is having a negative impact on his weight and consequentially his self-esteem). His problem is that he is just too polite, he can’t say no; whatever they bring and whenever they bring it. Now some of these visitors make the effort to get to know Jerry and his preferences. They know that he likes routine and so show up at roughly the same time everyday, with the same rustling carrier bag, when he can eat in peace (the big kids have gone). He is ready for those people, his stomach is prepared and he is fidgety with excitement. They bring a little variety, sometimes browning a little bit, but all edible. A little cucumber, a little lettuce sometimes celery! They are in perfect piggy size pieces, almost like leftovers.
However, other visitors are not as accommodating. They show at any time, no warning, no time for preparation. How does he know what they they have brought? Is it smelly? Are they expecting him to let them touch him? Some of them stop and watch him eat it too. His politeness takes over. He will have a nibble to satisfy their ego and then distract them. Run into the safe house, squeak a little, force himself to take a sip of water. Until they go. And then he breathes a small sigh of relief.
But on holiday it was different. There was a sole person who did the feeding. She took the time to get to know him, and then remembered him next time. Despite all the other holiday-goers she must see! She brought his favourite snacks, parsley, broccolli, kale.
She gave him his own space, yet many a conversation they had. Their daily problems shared and halved. They had a handful of common interests, mainly kale, although she seemed to eat it in different ways to his raw, nutritious choice.
She also used a different bedding, not a bedding he is used to, but that he has come to know as his holiday bedding. The smell washes over him as soon as he arrives and the tension in his muscles lifts. The decor is different to home, but he likes this. The room is a bit smaller, but this is to be expected.
She continues the food and hay supply that he is accustomed to, and ensures that fresh water is provided. He timed this break away perfectly. She had bought a new guest water bottle and he was the first to use it! It was smaller than he was used to and a bit noisier but as soon as he tested it (as surely he would be expected to provide feedback for others) he quite liked it. It served its purpose.
The B&B owner recommended exploring the local area; she patiently explained where was guinea pig friendly and that ‘a bit of exercise helps everyone to relax’! She liked walking, it was an achievement to her.
He agreed to give it a go (politeness being his downfall again), she was well-meaning and encouraging, what could go wrong? As he thought about the exploration ahead, he began to feel nauseous from the little butterflies building. She aided him over the tall wall and sent him off with food. She even transported his safe place to a more convenient location.
Once he had taken a few steps, he panicked. Where was he? How was he going to get back? What if the B&B owner had gone out? He remembered the action plan – go to the safe place. And so he did, deep within.
Unbeknown to him, she had planed to come and check his progress. He trembled, its too big, there are different smells and unusual sights. She waited patiently for him to calm down, she took the time to sit and reassure and then gave him some parsley to chew while contemplating his next action. She left him to think then, and slowly he took a couple of wobbly steps, then a couple more. Until out of nowhere something spooked him and the panic struck, it hit hard and he ran. He ran to where no-one would find him, it was quiet, it was dark. Peace. Except someone did find him, the B&B owner. The last person he wanted to see, she had caused this nightmare. She tried to coax him once again, said she would take him back to his room, but the trust had gone. No squeaks were given. Eventually she had to go elsewhere, she said. Had to get some food. A lie. There was plenty of food in his room and he had spied where she kept the supply. She did not need to get some food.
He fell asleep in that place. It was so dark and quiet and the panic had exhausted him, his legs could not move yet. He begrudgingly ate some parsley that she had left. He relieved myself (the anxiety brought these things on) and cautiously peeked out. However, he also found that he had time.
He was truly alone, left with only his thoughts. He had a good life, he was treated well. There was lots of hustle and bustle, lots of polite visitors to meet (some a bit scary), his regulars, and a someone to meet his daily needs. He was grateful that he had been accepted back to the B&B with only a few weeks notice. He knew others that weren’t so lucky. Once the initial anger and upset had faded, he thought rationally. She was being kind. Not mean. She wanted him to make the most of his holiday, gain new experiences, travel a little.
And so, when she retuned (with some kale…maybe she did need to go shopping), he had to move towards her. If he wanted to make the soaps that night, he would have to go back to the B&B. She understood how difficult this would be for him and helped as best she could. She slowly made the space he was in smaller, a more familiar size. She brought his sanctuary nearer so that he could run there during the transition. And then he felt her hands , close around his tummy. She kept him close to her the whole way back, and all faith was restored…he didn’t even wriggle.
I bring Jerry home with me, because I love his company. He helps me to look after myself & gives his owner a break. I am being kind to myself and others. TTFN.
I’m very excited already this morning! I have just signed up to the Perfect Strangers project.
This project is ran by Oh Comely and I am so looking forward to taking part! The idea is this: you sign up & enter your details & pay one pound, this is to ensure that participants are genuine. You also have the option to add a note to your profile about your likes & dislikes, this means that you can see your partners note too. Then you can choose if you wish to send your parcel to your country of residence or other countries. On the 15th June, the giant swapping hat comes out and you will be matched to a partner! By the 29th June you just have posted your parcel & then by the end of July you should have received your parcel from your Perfect Stranger!
There’s no rules to follow about what to put into your box. Ideas stem from either using the information on your partners note, or including items that show your passions in order for your partner to get to know you! But as I said, there are no rules, so you can just parcel up a few lovely items that you think any partner would enjoy. There isn’t a spending limit, however the advice is to stick to around £10 – then yours and your partners parcel are likely to be equal. You then pay for your postage to send your parcel – this may be something to bare in mind when choosing your recipient’s destination.
The site is very user friendly & aesthetically pleasing! It has a lovely questions section and also a posting guide.
I believe everyone that can afford to, should participate in this project. Who doesn’t like to make another person happy? Who doesn’t like to get butterflies with excitement that they’ve a parcel on the way? & it feels fantastic to take part in a worldwide project.
There is scope for your Perfect Stranger to become a close friend. Someone to turn to for advice. Someone to talk about your day with.
After all, it’s nice to be nice isn’t it?
Off to start my daily steps for my Fitbit to track…TTFN.
I seem to have become an adult. When did that happen? If I’m at the quarter life crisis stage, it’s an enjoyable crisis.
Things I do now I’ve become a proper grown-up:
- Assess my physical health
- Accept my mental health
- Try to think before I speak
- Try to learn from my mistakes
- Ask for help
- Cook healthily
- Share my kindness
- Listen to Radio 2.
Generally all opinions from fellow members of the ‘adult club’ are negative. Worst choice they ever made. Why? The things that you do are our choice & others have to accept these choices. You’re independent, do your thing. It’s not an easy transition but there’s the rewards when you succeed!
You can take advantage of your pre adulthood days & advise people that aren’t part of the club yet. For me that’s daily, I work in a Secondary School. I hear 15 year old dilemmas hourly. From “Is the pill or injection better?” to “What colour shall I do the title?” to “Shall I move to a hostel or ask round my friends for a sofa?”. I love their dilemmas, it shows that they are mini adults & I feel flattered every time I’m asked a question. They know the secret, they know I’m in the ‘Adult Club’!
If you’re reading this be careful…you might get sucked in.
My blog will touch on the list of adult-like actions as they occur. The key ones for me are assessing my physical health, accepting my mental health & sharing my kindness.
I’m obsessed by Orphan Black at the moment on Netflix. 1 more episode until the end of Season 1…TTFN.