Elaine has enthusiastically embraced various volunteer roles with CHAS. During the pandemic, she made over 4000 face masks raising £15,000 in support of children and families.
"Pick up the phone, it’s one of the best things that I ever did! There are a multitude of options for volunteering and there is genuinely something for everyone."
Elaine has been a volunteer with CHAS for more than six years, starting with occasional visits to Rachel House. Now that she is retired, Elaine has enthusiastically embraced various volunteer roles with the organisation and fundraises through her venture, Needles and Pines.
A highlight for Elaine was when she met Gill White, who is a CHAS parent and the author of Leo and the Lightening Dragon. Together, they discussed ideas for sharing the book with children, and Elaine used her experience to come up with different concepts.
What prompted you to become a CHAS volunteer?
As a Primary teacher, I have always loved working with children and their families and during my time teaching I would have loved to become part of the CHAS team at Rachel House. However, logistically this wasn’t possible so I began volunteering whenever I could manage to visit Rachel House, either joining in with the activities team, weeding, playing outside or sitting chatting with families visiting. When I retired, a few years ago, I was able to take a more active role which has grown “arms and legs” over the years much to my delight!
Tell us about your volunteering roles.
It’s probably easiest just to list it!
Can you tell us about any specific projects you’ve been involved in or any particular accomplishments where you feel you really made a difference?
I loved doing story telling/reading during the pandemic as it was a wonderful way to reach families during an especially challenging and isolating time for them. I recorded many stories for CHAS to use and also read to individual children two or three times a week. This continued beyond the pandemic with one family that I really bonded with, and our half hour story telling sessions usually ended up at least an hour as I chatted with siblings to hear their news and with the parents. It’s such a privilege to be in some one’s home and to so quickly feel that you are a part of the family. I know that I looked forward to our chats as much as they did.
I had the pleasure of meeting Gill White (author) when she was staying at Rachel House with Leo. Gill was just starting out as an author and was typically modest and unsure about some aspects of selling and promoting her work. This is an area that I have a lot of experience in, so we went out for a coffee to chat about some ideas while Rachel House looked after Leo. After we came back, we had some time together to explore different ideas for sharing her book with children. It was a wonderful experience as Gill is so vibrant and I learned so much from her and I hope I was able to share some of my experience with her.
What challenges, if any have you faced as a volunteer?
I think for me the biggest challenge is the very obvious sadness and emotion that you feel when a family are facing the worst time in their lives. What helps me, is knowing that CHAS are there every part of the journey to support families and to support me if I need it. No matter how often I hear a family’s story, I can still be moved to tears, but this is what motivates me to continue helping CHAS in some small way. The second biggest challenge is not having enough time to do more, especially with families directly.
And what about successes?
I prefer to view this as being part of a team. Yes, I’ve had personal successes helping families, at events and fundraising but I prefer to view these as successes for CHAS. In spreading the word about CHAS at many of my events, it’s always a delight when someone else wants to get involved too.
What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a volunteer with CHAS?
Pick up the phone, it’s one of the best things that I ever did! There are a multitude of options for volunteering and there is genuinely something for everyone. No matter how little time you can give each week/month/year, CHAS are always so enormously grateful. I just love being part of one huge supportive and friendly family where everyone is valued and made to feel so welcome.
How do you balance your volunteer work with your other responsibilities and commitments?
My volunteering is generally very flexible, and I enjoy fitting it in where I can. Yes, there are times when I’d like to do more but I just love the variety from muddy boots to glamourous sequins!
What do you think is the most important quality a successful volunteer should have?
Being a good listener, smiling, being part of a team, having empathy, being able to give some time to help others.
How you think your volunteer work has contributed to your personal growth or development?
I continue to love meeting new people and new situations.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I think you’ve heard enough from me!!