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Volunteer Newsletter – Special ‘lockdown’ edition


This is a difficult time for everyone and the Carers Centre is doing all we can to continue supporting carers. An unfortunate result of the Coronavirus pandemic is that all carer activities and support groups have had to stop. Many of these activities were either run or supported by volunteers but now they too have to stay at home

Although not able to physically support carers, the volunteers have been keeping busy and are happy to share some of the ways that they are coping with the ‘lockdown’. The volunteer stories may provide some inspiration for others or maybe there are more experiences to be shared.

As we see restrictions easing and, with safety in mind, we are able to bring people together, the Carer Centre volunteers will be able to take up their roles again and start to provide those valuable services that we are so proud of.

The theme of this newsletter is the Five Ways to Wellbeing framework. Our volunteers have shared how they stay Connected, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give. Under each of these headings we have added some further information and resources to help us look after ourselves.


Caroline is our volunteer choir leader and was leading a small group of enthusiastic singers every Tuesday morning. It was such a joy to hear how well the voices were coming together. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before the harmonies flow through the centre again.

While in ‘lockdown’, Caroline has started a group on Facebook called Hidden Sunderland.

Caroline explains that “the group is private but not secret so anyone can ask to join and it seems to have struck a chord (ha!) with people. Members are invited to post pictures of anything that they think is interesting on their walks. When something is posted, others join in the discussion about where it is, what it was and so on.”

Sunderland and Washington feature most but Caroline would welcome posts from Hetton and Houghton to participate too. At the last count there were 141 members in the group.


Caroline is looking forward to when the Dawn Chorus choir can restart and encourages us all in the meantime, to keep singing!


There are many online groups, so it is worth a search if you have an interest. For example, if you like reading why not try joining an online book club to get recommendations and chat to others about books you like.

Video calls are great for keeping connected. They are so much easier to set up than might be expected and are a great way to stay in touch with friends and family.

Be Active

Peter and Hillary are two of our walk leaders that take carers on interesting routes around the city. The Carers on the Move walking group had recently started to explore further afield before the virus stopped people coming together. If you have found a walk worthy of sharing, let us know and we will try to include it in the ‘post pandemic’ calendar of walks.



It wasn’t a surprise to hear that Hillary and Peter are keeping themselves active.

Hillary expressed how lucky they are to live within walking distance of the coast. She told us that they spend their daily outdoor exercise time walking down to the sea, along the seafront then sit near the Cat and Dog Steps, taking in the sights and sounds for a few minutes before setting off back home again. “It is fascinating to see the sea at different tide times and in different weather conditions.”

If this is not enough, they are also keeping their minds active by learning new things.

Hillary told us that they had both studied Latin at school and found it useful in working out the origins of words in English and other languages.  She went on to say, “bearing this in mind, we decided to learn ancient Greek from a children’s book we happened to have in the house. It’s not easy, you have to start by learning a new alphabet!” They are persevering though, and Hillary confessed that Peter is further on than her.

Many of the volunteers have described how they are keeping active.

Most are taking advantage of their outdoor exercise by going for a walk, enjoying a walk along the front or through many of the city’s open spaces. Dog walking is also popular (and necessary) but others are doing online yoga and exercise classes. Bikes are being pulled from the back of the garage and those with children are keeping fit just running after them.

Take Notice

Ashley is one of our volunteer gardeners although he also gets involved in lots of other activities including bag packs and other fundraising events. Ashley told us about discovering BBC Sounds.

I have always enjoyed listening to the radio and have a fifteen-year-old radio recorder which allows me to record radio programmes on to cassette. However the recorder is now beginning to show its age! The cassette doesn’t re-wind properly and recordings are far from perfect. Occasionally the play-back speed slows so that when playing back music, the notes sound much lower than they should be.

Imagine then my delight during lockdown when I discovered BBC Sounds. This facility allows you to hear radio broadcasts, both live and retrospective, on your laptop, PC, tablet, or smart phone. There is now no need for me to make a recording as I can access a bank of radio programmes, some that were first broadcast many years ago. You can subscribe to your favourite programmes (there is no charge involved) and save them for future listening or download and keep them. Also there are over a hundred podcasts available to listen to, each made up of many episodes.

Radio programmes that I have enjoyed recently include Last Seen Wearing (an Inspector Morse mystery), Dad’s Army, Pick of the Week and The History of the World in a Hundred Objects, the latter originally broadcast in a hundred episodes in 2010. In it Neil MacGregor, the then Director of the British Museum, looks in detail at particular objects in the Museum’s collection, explaining what each one tells us about the society which produced them. It’s a fascinating series and I’ve listened to the first twenty one episodes – seventy nine to go!

BBC Sounds unlocks hours and hours of listening pleasure and if you’d like to try it yourself just go to https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds or download the BBC Sounds App on your smart-phone. Finally, that old radio recorder of mine can now have a well-earned retirement!

Reminding yourself to ‘take notice’ can strengthen and broaden awareness. Being aware of what is taking place in the present can support our wellbeing. It is hard not to worry about the future but try not to have negative thoughts. Bring to mind one activity you are looking forward to during the day. While focusing on that positive moment (what you will see, smell, hear and touch), breathe slowly.

There are a number of mindfulness apps available which may want to try. Headspace, Calm, Aura, Stop Breath & Think are a few. Mind and the NHS websites can direct you to others.

Keep Learning

Debbie is a Carers Centre Champion and she tells us how learning to bake has brought her so much pleasure.  

“2 years ago, a colleague bought me a Mary Berry Bake Book and an Apron with my name on it. It has taken 2 years and a pandemic for me to use these and I have discovered a love of baking. 

When I put ingredients together and they change, then transform again in the oven, I find it amazing. I am loving learning something new and family seem to be enjoying eating my creations.” 

Debbie has so far made; Victoria Sponge, Fruit Scones, Pink Slices, Lemon Drizzle cake, Butterfly Cakes and a Wild Strawberry and Walnut Sponge for hubby’s birthday.  


It all looks delicious!

Being stuck at home has given many the opportunity to try something new or improve skills they already have. Peter and Hillary (walk leaders) are learning ancient Greek and Peter is also having a go at Welsh! 

The internet is full of ‘how to’ videos from crochet to beginner’s guitar, gardening to painting, photography to family history. Go on, try something new today.


Leda has attended the Carers Centre Befriending training and is soon to be matched to a carer through our Within Reach project. Leda will give her time to offer a regular friendly listening ear to someone who is more isolated in the community.





(Photo – Leda in the centre with two of
our other Within Reach volunteers)

Leda’s ‘lockdown’ story:

My daily life has not changed that much since lockdown so I didn’t have to adjust to something totally different and alien.

Even so, I am doing some things differently. I have a dog and we walk long distances, meeting lots of people on the way. The parks, meadows and fields are full of people taking a stroll or running, walking their dog or cycling. I have never seen so many people in such places before. Even before corona virus I always said hello, or exchanged a few words, the difference now is that people want to talk a lot more, about what is going on and how it is affecting them and their loved ones. There seems to be even more of a need for human contact, for connectedness and for healing.

For that reason, I started waving to bus drivers when I’m out and about, or Royal Mail and delivery vans, ambulances and generally front-line workers. And they wave back, warmly, and eagerly, and this makes me happy.

Finally, it helps me a lot, especially when in my more difficult days, to still wave, chat, connect. The act of giving to me, generates instant rewards, and even more so when we are going through such difficult times, collectively as well as personally.


Giving benefits both the giver and the beneficiary. Research into actions for promoting happiness has shown that committing an act of kindness is associated with an increase in wellbeing.

The Mental Health Foundation have a Random Acts of Kindness list.  You can either use the random number generator or pick your own off the list to complete that day.

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