A passion for poetry: how I bonded with my virtual buddy

Alison shares her experiences of volunteering as a Sense Virtual Buddy.

Taking early retirement was a huge shock to my system. I had worked in the NHS as a medical secretary for 20 years, but had to stop due to ill health. Getting to know all sorts of people and supporting them truly enriched my life. So, when work ended, I searched for other ways to connect with people.

After I finished work, I had some time to focus on my hobbies. Writing poetry always gave me a sense of peace and I had also trained as a chef, so I loved cooking! My husband is French, so food plays a huge role in our house. But I was still looking for other ways I could be useful.

In my online searches, I came across Sense’s Virtual Buddying program. It was quite a bit different from the volunteering I was used to. In my local area, I volunteer as a dog walker for vulnerable people. I also visit isolated people. Would I still feel like I was making a difference by volunteering online?

Soon after signing up to become a Sense Virtual Buddy, I was matched with Michael. Michael was 80 years old, and I’m in my 50s, so I wasn’t too sure at first whether we would have much in common. I went in with an open mind and we started having our weekly phone calls. It took a couple of sessions to get to know Michael, but soon enough, our conversations started becoming second nature. We chatted, laughed and started to become firm friends.

Connected through our love of literature

The turning point came when we started talking about books. Michael is a lover of words and literature, with an interest in…poetry! My heart lifted when I heard that. We shared our own poems with each other. Together, we write acrostic poetry – where the first letter of each line spells out a word or phrase. Michael loves language, so we challenged ourselves to make rhymes out of ‘non-rhyming’ words like ‘orange’.

All of Michael’s interests and hobbies truly inspire me. Although he’s visually impaired, Michael is an avid gardener. He prunes his garden almost entirely by feel. We also share a love of food and will occasionally share recipes with one another.

Over the course of the pandemic, we have had to find hope and joy wherever we can. Michael was deeply inspired by the story of Captain Tom, so I decided to go out and buy his autobiography. Now, during our phone calls, I will read a few chapters which we can then talk about. We also speak at length about Michael’s experiences of growing up during the Second World War.

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Volunteer to be a Sense Virtual Buddy volunteer, just like Alison.