New year, new start as CHSS appeals for Angus volunteers

Volunteers can help stroke sufferers in their area

Volunteers can help stroke sufferers in their area

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Did you know that there’s a catch-all way to improve your mood, your health and your job prospects?

The same thing will also increase your sense of belonging in your community and make you more able to understand others through improved life skills.

Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS) says volunteering doesn’t just benefit people in need but also the person who is giving up their time in a variety of ways. 
Now the health charity hopes more people will come forward to lend a hand locally, knowing just how much of a positive experience it can be.

Paul Okroj, volunteer development manager said: “Volunteering is a win-win situation.

“CHSS benefits from our outstanding volunteer team’s input and the volunteer recognises the benefits to their own well-being.”

One woman who can testify to that is Letham’s Heather Finch who has been volunteering with CHSS for almost four years.

She said: “After I retired, a friend of mine who volunteers asked me what I was doing with my time.

“I had previously worked as a learning support teacher for children so I thought that my skills and experience could be put to good use for adults who were having communication problems.

“I find it very rewarding.People want to learn and progress so much and it’s a great way of giving back to the community.”

Heather currently helps out at a Wednesday afternoon group for stroke victims at Forfar Fire Station.

She said: “The group concentrates on encouraging adults who have lost their ability to speak fluently, or even just have a vocabulary of only a few words, to try to communicate in a small and friendly, supportive group.

“We have activities like music or general knowledge quizzes, often with pictorial clues or prompt cards to assist the service users to have a chance of being able to point to an answer, if they are unable to say an answer.

“The ideal is to have the same number of volunteers as service users but, unfortunately, that is not always possible.

“Currently we have seven service users and only three volunteers.

“When one of us is unavailable for family or holiday commitments, the group is in danger of being cancelled for health and safety reasons.

“I would encourage anyone to volunteer; I really enjoy it.”

Heather also said she was fortunate to be an outreach volunteer which sees her going into someone’s home and giving them one-on-one support.

She said: “I spend an hour or sometimes a bit longer helping, either with re-learning to read or spell or even having a conversation.

“A stroke affects people differently and some have memory problems.

“Many have been professional people so take it hard when they can no longer pick up a book and read it as they did before.

“With support and encouragement, some of their skills slowly return and support can be withdrawn.

“As they gain in confidence, their personality becomes more obvious, as the occasional joke or off-the-cuff comment is passed, giving rise to a laugh.”

Stroke is a major cause of disability throughout Scotland.

In Angus alone, more than 3000 people are living with the effects of the condition.

But there’s a vast range of services on offer to lend people support.

CHSS volunteers can support people who have had a stroke – either in hospital, in their own home or in the community.

The charity’s Forfar and Crieff shops are also in need of volunteers and there’s regular fundraising events which also need support.

The money is used to fund vital medical research and also to run the Advice Line Nurses who offer a listening ear and provide confidential, independent advice and support to people living with chest, heart or stroke related-illnesses throughout Tayside and Angus.

Local co-ordinator Jill Thain said: “Our community stroke services are tailored to the needs of the individual and provide support in a variety of settings.

“Volunteers help people overcome their communication difficulties, their lack of confidence and reduce the sense of isolation and frustration they face following their stroke so that they can participate fully in activities and gain support to achieve their individual goals, either in a group setting, in the home, hospital or in the community.”

As an accredited Investing in Volunteers award holder, CHSS offers its volunteers a high standard of training and support so anyone giving their time to the charity can be sure of being valued and appreciated.

It means that no volunteer is thrown in at the deep end and no previous experience is required.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer with CHSS or who would like to find out more should contact the Volunteer Information Line on 0800 169 5139 or visit www.chss.org.uk/volunteering.

For support from CHSS, visit www.chss.org.uk, or call the charity’s free advice line on 0808 801 0899.