Emily Wilson, in Greater North Belfast, is using her experience to make the Society a better place to volunteer.
My late husband Jim was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia in 2014. He was seen by a neurologist, who sent us straight to Alzheimer’s Society.
I’d never heard of the Society, but we wouldn’t have got through this without them – they were amazing.
Jim and I both did bits for the Society, we spoke on the radio and I spoke on TV.
I’ve helped with dementia-friendly communities training, spoken to Scouts and Guides, and been on the judging panel for awards. I also shared information at Jim’s nursing home.
Fundraising, awareness raising, training, speaking – I’ll volunteer wherever I’m needed. It’s my way of saying thank you.
I’m on the Society’s Volunteer Advisory Panel. We’re a group of volunteers who give feedback and ideas on how to improve the experience of volunteers across the organisation.
We all have different roles as Society volunteers but are all really passionate about dementia. I applied and was accepted in 2019.
It’s meant to be two years, but because of COVID I’ve been extended to 2023.
Before I retired, my job for 20 years was about business and professional improvement. I learned a lot of skills in programme, project and risk management. Being part of the Volunteer Advisory Panel was a way to bring that knowledge to the Society. I thought, ‘Let’s see what we can do with this.’
I fly over to London for quarterly meetings. People can join virtually as well, but I prefer face to face. When I went over first, I was quieter, but I’ve got now to the stage that my opinion is as valuable as anybody else’s.
I’ve just become the Volunteer Advisory Panel’s lead for policy. The Society sent me over a volunteer policy and handbook, asking, ‘What do you think? What would you change?’ and I give my feedback.
I also sat on an interview panel when the Society was recruiting. One of us even sat on the interview panel for the new Chief Executive. The Society put out requests and we put ourselves forward.
We’re also a sounding board for whether an idea will work, and we all bring our own bit to it. Being in Northern Ireland, I can say, ‘Hold on, our health and social care setup is very different over here.’
The Volunteer Advisory Panel is a great group of people, very dedicated. We’re all different but we work well together, and we look out for each other.
Alzheimer’s Society is not like any other charity I know of. It’s like you’re part of the team. You have a role description and you’re included.
Volunteers are such a big part of Alzheimer’s Society. We’re on the front line, and I think it’s very, very important that our voices are heard.
Will you join the thousands of Alzheimer's Society volunteers already taking on dementia? Find a volunteering opportunity in your local area.