Whether you have a lifetime of experience from the school of hard knocks or have just left school and are ready to take on the world, volunteering could be just the thing for you!  There are lots of opportunities to get involved, and with the support of Healthy Valleys, you too could be making a difference to the health and wellbeing of our local Clydesdale communities.

Healthy Valleys, which is a community led health improvement organisation for the rural South Lanarkshire, celebrates its 10 year anniversary this year. Our operations team is made of a mix of staff and volunteers who all have a range of skills and experience.  In 2012 our volunteers, 68 of them gave 3020 hours, equating 58 hours per week, of their time to help others improve their health and wellbeing.

One of our most recent new volunteers is Jean Kyle of Kirkmuirhill.  After 20 years of working as an office manager, Jean was looking forward to a well earned retirement and taking it easy, but didn’t want to be stuck in the house all day. Three months later, she’s discovered that retirement has opened up fantastic opportunities for keeping active and busy through volunteering with Healthy Valleys.

Jean said “I’ve been involved in various things in the village all my life but working full time meant I gradually did less and less, until it felt like I’d lost touch with what was going on. Through Healthy Valleys I’ve got involved in lots of different things and met lots of new people as well as catching up with people I hadn’t seen for years. I really feel like I’m a part of the community again.”

Jean trained as a Walk Leader along with daughter Helena Allan from Forth, Pamela Mitchell from Douglas and Tracey Allan of Kirkmuirhill.  They are now all delivering weekly buggy walks in the villages, encouraging mums to get together, make new friends and keep fit.

Tracey said “Keeping active is good for the mind as well as the body. There’s lots of chat when you’re walking and having someone to talk to can make such a difference to someone, who is feeling alone or down.”

Jean has also supported vulnerable pregnant women to various ante-natal appointments through the Grassroots maternal health project and is looking forward to getting more involved with the families, babies and toddlers involved in the project. “I have 4 children and 7 grand children so have loads of experience which I can share. I’m also a keen knitter, so this gives me an excuse to look out the baby patterns!”

Joyce Jardine of Lanark, who also volunteers with Grassroots said “The family are more than just people I support - a strong bond has developed between us and they are comfortable in sharing their experiences with me, which clearly demonstrates the level of trust they place in me.  I feel privileged to have met this family and feel strongly that my contribution is worthwhile.”

Grant Seath of Lanark is a Volunteer Buddy with the Time Out Young Persons Mental Health Project. Grant supports a young man to access group activities including gardening and cooking, as well as taking him to the gym regularly to improve his physical health.  Grant said “The benefits to me are that my confidence has increased as I am sometimes doing things outside my comfort zone, which is very good for me. My fitness has improved as it motivates me to go to the gym too!”

Volunteers not only benefit from the feel good factor, they also receive training, support and are reimbursed any out of pocket expenses.

Life skills are just as important as qualifications, and even if you can only offer a few hours of your time, you will be made most welcome.  

Jean said “By giving up mY time I’m gaining some great new experiences, meeting lovely people and really feeling like part of the community again.  It’s been brilliant so far.”

For more info about volunteering with Healthy Valleys contact Alison Taylor, Volunteer Co-ordinator on 01555 880666