Helen's story: How ‘People Helping People’ Changes Lives
Helen, aged 58, has multiple health issues and lives in Nantwich in the Independent Living Scheme. During lockdown, she sustained a fall and through increased frailty made worse by lockdown she lost the ability to mobilise properly. The People Helping People scheme through Nantwich Buddies encourages volunteer interventions and Helen shares her story about how one volunteer has supported her throughout the pandemic and explains her physical and mental improvement as a result.
“I had previously met Charlotte, a local volunteer at a knitting group where I live. I was very sociable and enjoyed life. Then out of nowhere, the country found themselves in lock-down and we were unable to socialise or communicate, we stayed in our rooms and life became unbearable. I was overjoyed when the Home Manager asked if I would be willing for Charlotte to become my ‘buddy’ and true to her word, she called me every Tuesday, at an agreed time she was always prompt and together we chatted with ease.
It was during one of those calls that I shared my fear of losing my ability to walk. I was stumbling a lot and finding myself on the floor unable to get up. Charlotte kindly offered to assist me and as the Government were allowing people to go out for an hour exercise, we decided to venture out for short walks. This is where our journey together began
Despite me being unsteady, we persevered and one day, a kind lady offered to lend me her walking frame. We didn't get along, the frame and I that is and several times I unwittingly forced Charlotte off the pavement.
I mentioned that I had a wheelchair; so I pushed the empty wheelchair along and got some very strange looks from passers-by. “Have you lost somebody?” they would shout. Eventually, we got into town and found a new coffee shop with a courtyard in Bakers Yard. We noticed the ‘Yoga Masters’ studio and I explained that before I was ill, I had practised yoga so we went for a look inside.
The Yogi Kristyna invited us in and persuaded me to start classes. I started off in my wheelchair and motivated by Charlotte, I started to get my flexibility back and progressed to holding onto a chair. Now I don't need a chair at all. I have little use in my lower limbs and can't get off the floor so Kristyna lifts me up! I've been made very welcome in the group.
Charlotte and I go every week - this is volunteering at its best! The class meets for coffee afterwards and I have made new friends.
Kristyna has given me hope and confidence and doesn't treat me as though I have a disability. I'm less able than the others in the group but they give me hope to carry on despite my difficulties which makes me very happy. Yoga helps my mind and helps me cope despite my health issues as it sets my mind free. I can go to a mental place where I can be myself.
I have forged close friendships in the group and we often go for coffee afterwards. If Charlotte had not come into my life during lockdown, I don't know what would have happened. She was very careful and mindful of the virus and kept us safe. She has stood by me and helped me to move forward. This has instilled a great level of confidence in me.
Charlotte is amazing and a true buddy I would like to thank them both and the People Helping People scheme which has kept me going both physically and mentally through and beyond such difficult times."
Charlotte adds, “The umbrella of support that Nantwich Buddies provides, allows me to act in an ‘official’ capacity and be more adventurous in my volunteering. By joining the Buddies, Helen can also access more activities. Her journey has been amazing to watch, at first she needed help in each yoga pose and now she can stand, balance and strike a pose on her own without holding on to a chair for support.
What’s great for me though, is that I had never done yoga in my life before and I join her every week. I am over 70 and I have found something new that I love in addition to my passion for helping others.”
Helen has since been referred to a physio by her GP, the physio suggested that continuing to practice yoga would have more benefit.
Partners and local volunteers are providing community-based support to meet the needs of residents who find themselves isolated without family, friends or a support network. The services are delivered for the local community, by the local community including:
A regular friendly phone call to lift your spirits
Telephone support, advice and reassurance
Access to essential food and medical supplies
Help with shopping etc.
Yoga Masters UK offers a wide range of classes to suit all ages, abilities and lifestyle. You can enjoy many different styles of Yoga including classes designed for the whole family as well as sessions for expectant mums, newbie Yoga for our beginners or over 55s classes which Helen joined.
More information about the People Helping People Scheme can be found on the Cheshire East Council website