Hometown Heroes: Gráinne provides a cheerful chat and a listening ear

Gráinne Fee talks to Róisín Burke about volunteering with Alone, saying she hopes she makes the lives of the older people she phones a little bit brighter.
Hometown Heroes: Gráinne provides a cheerful chat and a listening ear

Gráinne Fee, based in West Cork, is a telephone support volunteer with Alone. Picture Denis Minihane.

A FRIENDLY voice at the end of the phone can mean a lot to someone and, during the pandemic, it can mean even more — which is why the work of Alone volunteers is invaluable.

Rosscarbery resident Gráinne Fee has been volunteering with the older people’s charity since July 2020, offering cheerful chat and a listening ear to people who want both.

Explaining her role, Gráinne said: “At the moment I am doing just two hours a week as a telephone support volunteer. This is where I call older people and just have a chat. Some calls might be just 10 minutes, but others can be longer, depending on how the person is.

“There are some people who have no one and their weekly call or calls from Alone might be their only connection, so we spend longer with them.”

Gráinne said she got a lot from helping out with the organisation.

“I love connecting with people and listening to their stories. Everyone has a life history and everyone has a story to tell.”

The mother of two said she hoped her efforts could bring something positive to the lives of those she interacted with on a weekly basis.

“I feel that we will all need help at some stage in our lives and, for a few hours of my week, I can help make someone’s life that little bit brighter I hope.”

Gráinne has also spent time volunteering in America with a domestic abuse hotline and gave her time to help out at the local school pre-Covid. She said being a part of the Alone network has taught her valuable life lessons.

“It has taught me not to judge people and take everyone as an individual with a life history and a human who just needs support.”

The former secondary school teacher, who also worked in HR, said something she tried to remember was that older people were young once too.

“They have contributed to society so should be treated with respect and admiration. Also, we will all grow old, hopefully, and will be in similar situations one day.

“It also makes me so grateful for my life — my family and friends and the beautiful area I live in.”

Gráinne said the pandemic had awakened a welt of loneliness across the country.

Gráinne Fee, based in West Cork, is a telephone support volunteer with Alone.
Gráinne Fee, based in West Cork, is a telephone support volunteer with Alone.

“I have noticed the isolation felt by the older people during lockdown particularly. Some have no visits at all, day care centres are closed and they cannot even get out for walks. There are some people who have not left their home for a year — that is very difficult.

“For these people, we try to give them hope that things will change and they will get out again and they will see family and friends.”

The mother of two said that some people had no choice but to deal with being isolated.

“Loneliness affects all members of society and it doesn’t matter what you have materially. If you are on your own and lonely, you need support and connections with people.”

The Alone volunteer said she would be starting as a visitation support and befriending volunteer with Alone in the coming weeks.

“I am waiting for a match for that role. This is where I will be matched with an older person in the community and visit them one hour a week, just to chat and assist with any practical matters. This is a one-year commitment and I will still do my telephone support volunteering.”

Gráinne said her time with Alone had given her a greater insight into the challenges faced by older people.

“My time with Alone has given me just a snapshot of what life is like for older people around the country and how much support they need. A lot of them feel invisible so we need to ensure they feel they matter and I truly believe Alone does that. Connections mean more than we will ever know.”

She said that Alone is invaluable in terms of the support they provide to society.

“The training, support and professionalism they have shown is great and I am thrilled to be a part of the work they do for older people in Ireland. They do amazing work and, at the core, are the older people using their service.”

Gráinne said she would encourage anyone experiencing issues in their old age to reach out to Alone.

“I would urge older people to reach out to Alone and see what supports they might be able to assist with.”

If you would like to donate to the charity organisation, you can do so on: www.alone.ie

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