Report on the volunteers training session, 4 March 2020


Volunteer Kevin Duffy reports on the volunteers training session held on 4th March 2020

Helen introduced Debra McCallion as facilitator for the training. With a couple of late arrivals, there were 15 people attending, many of them fairly new to the volunteering role. Everyone briefly introduced themselves.

Debra explained that we would be exploring 3 main topics:

  •  Why are we volunteering and what we hope to gain. Have these expectations been met?
  • Dealing with potential challenges and boundary setting
  • Strategies for building Resilience

Why volunteer?

Debra split the group into pairs/threes to discuss the first question. The responses as to why people are volunteering with CGN included:

  •  ‘give something back to the community’
  • ‘connecting with other people’
  • ‘I am new to Manchester and want to meet people and learn about the community’
  • ‘to gain a balanced perspective through spending time with older people, to learn from their experiences’
  • ‘I am recently retired and, to be honest, welcome some sort of structure in my own life
  • ‘to offer companionship’

There were variations on these, of course. With regard to the extent to which these aims are being met, quite a few said that, as they are fairly new to CGN they do not yet have extensive experience to know whether aims would be met, but anticipated that they would. The more experienced volunteers said that they really valued their volunteering role and that it had brought more depth to their own lives.

Challenges/Boundary setting

Debra then asked us to discuss in small groups whether we had experienced, or anticipated, any challenges when meeting with people in the community. As one would expect, there were a range of ideas, including:

  • Keeping to agreed timescales, typically 1 hour. Some volunteers said they are willing to be flexible with this, others felt that we should stick to time limits. It was broadly agreed that it depends on the context and the relationships that are formed
  • Some volunteers are concerned about helping clients with security around money and technology e.g. never use a client’s credit card and to help them with using secure passwords etc.
  • How to deal with differences of opinion e.g. politics, religion. It was agreed that if there are contentious issues or statements, we should not challenge them directly in a confrontational manner, but should not “collude” with potentially offensive comments

A few tips to deal with clients who may be difficult to engage in conversation or general interaction:

  • Can use a “bank” of standard questions – ‘did you watch that programme….
  • Use photographs to stimulate discussion
  • Play games e.g. Scrabble; cards
  • ‘ a story for a story’
  • Ask their opinions about local/national developments

Emotional Resilience

The third part of the session focused on developing our own Strategies for building personal resilience, broadly based on the principles of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Debra asked the groups to discuss/estimate:

  • On average, how many thoughts do each of us have every day
  • What percentage of these could be described as Negative

The groups came up with wildly divergent answers, but the received wisdom is that, on average we have between 50-70,000 thoughts every day, roughly 75% of which are negative.

Debra explained that the constant chatter we all have in our minds is geared towards the Negative, and we can adopt a number of strategies to help address this, including developing an Attitude of Gratitude and methods to avoid falling into Thinking Traps.

As we were running out of time, Debra circulated a helpful handout which outlined a range of positive strategies that we can adopt.

As the session concluded, Helen thanked Debra on behalf of all the volunteers for such an enjoyable, useful and interactive training session.