Spotlight on CSR: Katie Garrett

At iProspect UK, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) days can be used for a range of activities, from one-off volunteering days to pro bono work and fundraising activities, but I chose to use one of mine to help with my longer-term volunteering plans.

I knew I wanted to volunteer with elderly people, being really close to my grandparents and being so aware of the effects loneliness can have on a person. There are 3.6 million older people in the UK that live alone, and of these, 1.2 million are chronically lonely. The effects of loneliness are not only on a person’s well-being, but also on their physical health as loneliness can increase risk of premature death by up to a quarter, and people with a high degree of loneliness are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s (Age UK, 2018).

Having researched the opportunities available, I found that Age UK run a befriending scheme. The programme pairs volunteers up with an elderly person in the local area, the volunteer visits elderly person on a regular basis – once a week is recommended – to give them some company.

After applying for the scheme and attending an interview at my local Age UK office, I was required to attend a day-long training session. Rather than take a day’s holiday to complete this, I took advantage of iProspect UK's CSR scheme and used one of my CSR days instead. The training covered a range of topics, from safeguarding and the legal side of things to ideas of activities you could do with your new elderly friend. It was also chance to meet other befrienders and people who work for the charity.

After completing the training, I was paired up with an elderly lady called Pat who lives a five-minute cycle from my home. The first time I met her I was accompanied by someone from Age UK (I went in my lunch break while working from home – agile working is another of my favourite iProspect UK benefits.), who introduced us and ensured Pat was comfortable with me coming to visit her. Fortunately we got along and she was happy for me to come back!

Pat is 86, obsessed with animals and has a wicked sense of humour. She doesn’t have any family in London – they’ve all moved overseas - so she spends most of her time on her own in her room in a residential care home. I go to see her once a week just for an hour or two, we have a cup of tea and chat about what’s on TV or in the news, or about her life, and it gives her an extra bit of company.

Other volunteers take their partner shopping or to the park, or do arts and crafts activities with them. My partner just happens to like a good old chat.

I’d recommend regular volunteering to anyone – it gives you the opportunity to contribute to the 'greater good', even on a very micro level, and it can also really help to improve your own well-being and sense of purpose.

If you’re interested in longer-term volunteering, chances are you’ll need to do some sort of training – especially if you’re working with vulnerable people – so this is a great way to use your CSR day. More information about Age UK’s befriending scheme can be found on its website.