Post-graduate student Sorcha and American retiree Michael struck up a friendship through the Helping Hands at Home project, a new initiative from COPE Galway, which pairs older clients with volunteers, who visit them each week.
Both Sorcha and Michael agree that spending time together has given them valuable insight into the other’s life, generation, values and viewpoint.
She started volunteering with COPE Galway while applying for master’s degree programmes and says she was drawn to Helping Hands at Home because she would get to work with people one-on-one.
He said he finds it interesting to see how young people today go about starting their lives and careers. “I don’t envy the challenges young people face today,” he said, adding that he is glad to have gotten involved in the Helping Hands at Home project because, “If [Sorcha] is representative of her generation, we don’t have to despair.”
Sorcha visits Michael for a few hours every Friday. A typical visit entails a bit of help around the house, or a trip to the shop if Michael needs anything. The other key element? “Lots
of chats,” Sorcha says.
Michael moved to Galway following his retirement ‘after I decided I would live wherever I wanted’. His parents were from Co. Galway and he had visited Ireland periodically throughout his life.
Proud and hard-working, he said “I always thought I’d be able to handle myself when I got older. But everyone needs some help.”
For the past several months Michael has been in and out of the hospital and he says the ‘service-oriented’ help he receives from COPE Galway has improved his quality of life. In addition to the Helping Hands at Home, he also receives meals from the Meals on Wheels programme.
Michael said it makes a difference knowing that because volunteers provide the services, they have chosen to be there. “It’s not like she’s in the door and then leaving again,” Michael said of his weekly visits with Sorcha. “Far from it,” he said. He finds her “outstanding and helpful.”
Since she has started volunteering with the service, she started a health care course because volunteering made her realise she enjoys that kind of work.
“It’s like making a friend,” Sorcha says of her work with Michael. “[Helping Hands at Home] is like gaining a friend you get to see every week.”