Sandra is a volunteer in our befriending service and has been involved in Waverley Care since the early 90s. Her contribution to our work was recently recognised at the Volunteer Edinburgh ‘Inspiring Volunteering Awards’. We caught up with her to hear more about her time with Waverley Care

What inspired you to get involved in volunteering?

When I first started out, I wasn’t able to work due to ill health. I was looking for something to keep me busy and a Disablement Resettlement Officer suggested voluntary work.

I visited the Volunteer Shop in Dalry Road (which is sadly no longer there) and had a look at some of the options.  I was so impressed with the leaflet for Solas that I just had to volunteer there. (Solas was an independent HIV community charity which became part of Waverley Care in 1993)

There was a drop-in cafe that provided affordable, nutritious food, something that was really needed at the time. There was also an information centre, access to counselling and complementary therapies, and a crèche. Every week there was a GP available to answer questions and give advice.

It was a safe place at a time when HIV was new and terrifying. Not a lot was known or understood about the condition and medication was in its infancy.

What has your volunteer role involved?

I started out volunteering in the café, washing up, serving at the counter and clearing tables.  We were also there to chat with people who were on their own. It was difficult sometimes because, just as people were ready to talk, we’d have to leave to serve at the counter.

So, in 1993 there was a decision to create a new team of volunteers who were trained in counselling skills. We were listening ears for service users who needed to talk about anything from how they were coping to what they were watching on television.

When Waverley Care moved out of Solas to Mansfield Place in 2009, I continued as a befriender. I still see a couple of people from those days, meeting up and helping with things like the grocery shopping.

How much time do you spend volunteering?

It has varied over the years. In the early days it would have been about 3-4 hours a week. At its peak I was spending about 10-12 hours a week. For the last five years or so, I’ve cut back to an easier 2-4 hours a week.

What do you think are the main benefits of volunteering (both for the service user and the volunteer)?

The real benefit for me is the feeling that I’m giving something back, helping people who need support. As for the service users, I think that having volunteers who can listen and let them get things off their chests helps them through difficult times.

What would you say to someone who was considering supporting Waverley Care with their time?

It’s a no brainer, volunteering satisfaction!

You were recently recognised at the Inspiring Volunteering Awards – how was the ceremony?

It was a great evening with lots of laughs and humour. There were so many diverse people receiving awards for so many diverse volunteering skills. It was lovely, and a wonderful surprise, to have been nominated.

Tell us a little bit about you – how do you like to spend your time when not volunteering?

Away from volunteering I love line dancing, going to the gym and yoga (the Waverley Care class on Tuesdays is great).

I also love travelling to visit friends and family across Scotland and around the world. I was in Australia recently, meeting my eight half brothers and sisters. I knew about them but they only learned about me a couple of years ago!

What is your favourite food and drink?

Any food! So much so that I’m now a member of Slimming World and have lost three-and-a-half stone which has done wonders for my health. I do miss my biscuits and buns though!  I’d say restaurant fish and chips is now my favourite dining out food.  As for drink…it has to be herbal white tea. I Love it and have about 3 pots a day.

What is your favourite TV show/film?

I’m an unashamed Sci-Fi geek! My favourite TV series has to be the brilliant ‘Babylon 5’ but I’ve also been a ‘Trekker’ since the mid-60s. In terms of films, ‘Interstellar’ and ‘The Martian’ were both excellent.

What do you like to read?

Continuing the Sci-Fi theme, I’ve read all of Iain M Banks’ books and recently re-read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series.

I’ve been a ‘Lord of The Rings’ fan since I borrowed it from the school library in the early 60s. I think Peter Jackson did a good job, turning the complicated book into the film trilogy. And of course I loved ‘Harry Potter’.

Right now I have “Our Kind of Traitor” by John Le Carre and the latest in Phil Rickman’s “Merrily Watson” series on the go

Who inspires you?

I’m inspired by the many people I’ve met who have overcome adversity – people who have never given up despite facing physical, mental or emotional challenges and who keep on growing and learning.

In terms of famous inspirations, it would have to be David Attenborough and Stephen Hawking.