To mark Volunteer Week Racing Welfare volunteer Rebecca Elvin tells us about the power of the charity’s weekly check-in calls for tackling social isolation during the pandemic
Volunteers’ Week celebrates the contribution volunteers make to their communities and at Racing Welfare this is no better highlighted than by those who give up their time to be at the heart of their check-in and chat calls.
The unprecedented curb on social interactions over the past year due to the Coronavirus pandemic has compounded feelings of loneliness and isolation for many and the check-in and chat calls have become a vital area of support to combat loneliness. The calls are made by volunteers to anyone in racing and breeding who needs a listening ear or just a friendly chat.
Rebecca Elvin who works at Cheltenham Racecourse began volunteering for Racing Welfare while on furlough, she discusses how it has made a difference to other people’s lives as well as her own. As lockdown eases, Rebecca’s volunteering role remains a pivotal one to our beneficiaries and we spoke to her about the experience.
When did you start the check-in calls at Racing Welfare and what motivated you to get involved?
I was furloughed at the beginning of April and the weeks seem to be stretching ahead of me so I looked for something to keep my mind occupied at the same time as doing something in my world of interest. As part of the Jockey Club stable we host Racing Welfare coffee mornings at work so they were my first port of call. Luckily they said they had a role for me so that is how it started.
How many calls do you make per week? Are they with the same people?
I have three people who I call at least once a week for about 20 mins to half an hour. Each one is different. If something big is happening in the week I will often just check in after the big event – one gentleman was waiting for a new battery for his emergency call button so I called him after it was due to arrive just to make sure it had.
What do you chat about on the calls?
Wow that is a hard question to answer – everything and anything. Racing is obviously our common interest so that is the starter for ten. Since racing has returned to the TV we chat about the action, what Francesca wore, who will win the Arc, Oli Bell’s sitting room, you name it we have it covered. We chat about their involvement in racing in the past, they all have great stories to tell. Everyday stuff is covered too – they have given me loads of tips for my garden, the gossip from the local village that they have seen as they are out and about on walks a bit more, grandchildren and the urgent need for a haircut and roots being touched up!
What impact do you feel it has had on those you support? Are there any calls which stand out in particular?
I hope it has made a difference to them. My three people have all dealt with lockdown really, really well but do say every week how fed up they are so I hope our light-hearted chats make a difference. My first call made me cry – they said to me I was the first person they had chatted to in 6 weeks – that made me sad but had made me stick to the timescale of calling once a week. I made the mistake of calling last week close to the start time of the ITV Racing from York and he said “as lovely as it is to chat to you I am going to go now to watch the racing now.” That made me laugh a lot.
One lady has been painting her house during lockdown but kept putting off the kitchen ceiling. Every call would start – “have you done the ceiling yet?!”. Just last week when I called she said, “I have been waiting for you, I have done the ceiling now, I hope you are impressed!”. She is 80 so of course I am impressed.
How has the experience impacted you?
I love chatting to all the people I support – we have a laugh and I share their sad times but I generally feel we have made a friendship.
Is it something you will continue to do in the future?
For sure – I hope those I speak to weekly will join the coffee mornings with us going forward and I look forward to keeping in touch with them.
If you would like to receive check-in calls call Racing Welfare on 0800 6300 443.
Racing Welfare is always looking for volunteers so if you are interested email firstname.lastname@example.org