Sami’s story – Edinburgh Memories
To increase her social interactions, Sami got involved in our Edinburgh Memories and Football Memories groups for older people. She’s also started to befriend a child in kinship care.
How did you first hear about Big Hearts?
I travel from Livingston to Tynecastle Park for every home game as part of the Half Time Draw team. One week I picked up a leaflet about Big Hearts to read on the long bus journey. A couple of things caught my eye, mainly the Befriending Project and the Edinburgh & Football Memories. So I got in touch with Innes, Big Hearts’ Volunteer Development Officer.
Can you tell us more about your current volunteering role?
Every Tuesday I come to Tynecastle and volunteer for Football and Edinburgh Memories (groups on alternate weeks). We put lots of resources out on the table, paper cuttings, books etc. That really helps generate conversations between the older people. They mainly talk about their memories and share experiences, which is really quite nice. Everyone takes part, so sometimes you don’t even realise who is a volunteer and who is a participant! It’s very informal, and I really like that.
What benefits have you personally seen from volunteering?
I don’t work and I used to home school my son. He’s now 16 and once his schooling was over I was left doing nothing. So it’s nice to have something to look forward to once or twice a week. It helps shape my life. I also suffer from depression and anxiety so being social really helps me. Volunteering gives me a purpose and pushes me, I feel a sense of belonging. There’s something about Tynecastle that gives you a sense of community. Sometimes before the Memories sessions I can feel anxious, but it’s all forgotten as soon as I walk through the door and start volunteering.
What made you want to become a Big Hearts Befriender?
As I mentioned my son is 16 and whilst I’m still his mum I feel he doesn’t need me as much anymore. I’m quite a nurturing person and the chance to be around children again is nice. I really look forward to being able to give my time and attention to someone who needs that and is maybe less fortunate than myself or my family and friends.
What does befriending involve?
I just completed the training and will soon be matched with a young person in the community, who is socially isolated or vulnerable. I will help support them for a year, by engaging in an activity together once a week for a couple of hours. It will be good to take them away from whatever situation or family circumstances are going on around them. It’s an opportunity for them to come away from that and just be a child and have some fun. Hopefully I’ll be there as another support system for them and be someone they can count on weekly. No matter what goes on in their week, what happens at home, I’ll be there as planned to do an activity that they want to do.
How did you find the process to become a volunteer Befriender?
The training was very informative. It was across 4 weeks which was necessary to cover everything you might come across. We looked at the effects of social isolation, drug and alcohol abuse and poverty and ways that we might help a child suffering from these. When you start befriending, you don’t know everything about the child and their background so the training made me more aware of things that could potentially come up, which is very good.
What life skills have you found useful?
First and foremost, the fact I’m a Hearts supporter helps. There’s the sense of community and you feel like you’re at home here. Home schooling my son and being a parent is definitely a transferrable skill which will be used when I begin befriending. In my previous career, I was used to communicating with lots of different people across various sizes of teams. These communication skills have definitely been an asset to be with the Edinburgh and Football Memories groups. I’ve been around children for a long time so it’s nice to continuing doing so whilst also helping older people. That adds to the sense of community, bridging that gap between the young and the old.
As a Big Hearts Volunteer, what are you most proud of so far?
I’ve only started 6 months ago, but I’m definitely proud of myself for coming every Tuesday at the Memories group no matter how I feel. It really makes my day to see people happy and knowing sometimes that might be the only contact they’ve had that week. A shared conversation really means something to that person, and so I am proud to be part of that.