Maeve Boyle talks about her experience of volunteering with us.

My background

I have been a secondary school English teacher and I also taught in a primary school supporting children with additional needs. I have been a waitress and theatre ward orderly. I lived in America for three years, travelled a bit - which I still love to do and enjoy films, reading and even work, sometimes!

How and why I got involved with the Stroke Association

I decided I wanted to get involved after my mother died about six years ago, eighteen months after she had a major stroke. Having witnessed her loss of confidence, alongside all the other physical and medical implications, it pained me so much that it seemed the best way to deal with those memories. So I decided to commit to doing something helpful by volunteering.

What I enjoy about volunteering

Primarily, I simply enjoy the engagement with people, those who attend the group, those I visit individually and the other volunteers and staff that I meet. Equally I have been able to take on some things that I would never have done otherwise. Perhaps more importantly it gave me the confidence to do those things. For example, I have benefitted from doing additional training in first aid, taking blood pressures and manual handling.

How I make a difference

Whenever I visit someone in their home, I aim to discover any particular likes they have or have had. For example, it could be specific music and on good days we will perhaps sing a little Abba or Elvis. Singing? In truth it might be more like humming particularly when I fail to remember the words! I also think humour is important. I feel good if the person is able to laugh and I always try to do or say something that will provide that moment of light relief. I also try to keep in contact with the family member who is most closely associated with the person I am supporting. I try to be flexible about when I visit and try to provide a little respite for family members.

How and why I would encourage other people to get involved

It is a wonderfully uplifting experience to come away from either the group or an individual knowing that by the way people have responded, they are getting something from the time I have given. I see huge reward in seeing people grow in confidence and in their capacity to engage with the group and/or with me. The one thing I can guarantee you is that you do not know how much you could benefit and enjoy volunteering until you try. Yes you can - just do it. I didn't believe I could when I first started but now look at me.