Volunteer, Mandy Hetherton, has spent four years as a shared reading facilitator at Apthorp Care Centre, and urges others to consider giving back to their communities in support of Volunteers’ Week.
The annual awareness week celebrates the great work carried out by volunteers as well as recognising the benefits of helping others.
Every Monday, Mandy, who lives in Hackney and is an executive coach and facilitator by profession, joins a group of six to eight residents at the care home to read poems together for an hour. Her decision to volunteer at The Fremantle Trust’s care home in New Southgate, came after she lost both her parents, who were living with dementia. For her, it was really important to do something constructive to improve the lives of people with dementia.
As part of her volunteering role at the Trust, Mandy trained with an organisation called The Reader, which has pioneered the use of reading to improve wellbeing, reduce social isolation and build resilience in diverse communities across the UK.
Mandy maintains that reading offers a powerful way of exploring emotions. Each week she reads out a poem with the group and, after first reactions, they collectively ‘dig in’ to it line by line, picking out juicy or puzzling bits and figure it out together while sharing ideas and memories evoked by the poem.
With a ‘day job’ that focuses on helping people to understand themselves better and interact well with others, Mandy draws on her professional skills in her voluntary role at Apthorp Care Centre. By helping to create a warm and welcoming environment, she asks carefully considered questions to engage her fellow readers and encourage insights.
Like the thousands of active volunteers across the UK, Mandy believes her role gives her a sense of making a positive difference to others. She has also observed in her four years volunteering that there have been striking changes in people within the group, who were initially anxious about poetry and the prospect of getting it ‘wrong’ and have gone on to thoroughly enjoy the experience.
Commenting on her role Mandy said:
Volunteering is really important as it’s a chance to do something that matters and to be helpful to others at the same time. Psychological research shows that acts of kindness and giving to others are really important to our mental well-being - volunteering is actually good for you!
Mumuni Zoure, home manager at Apthorp Care Centre, added:
Mandy is a real asset to our team and a much valued member of our community. Her approach is so kind and compassionate and it’s helped residents within the group to explore poetry with freedom and confidence.