Case Study: Volunteer Walk Leader

A retired NHS worker, our volunteer moved to Bedminster two and a half years ago. She lives alone but has children and grandchildren living in Gloucester and London that she sees regularly. She has recently become a St Monica Trust volunteer walk leader after having attended one of our Walking for Health groups for several years.

She has several long term health conditions including osteoporosis and she also had a cancer diagnosis 6 years ago. It was during her recovery the she became much more involved with walking through attending a local cancer charity. Here she helped run a Nordic walking group and still leads walks for other attendees of the centre. She credits walking as having helped her recovery, allowing her to regain her fitness as well as her confidence in social, semi-work environment. She also loves the outdoors and nature and walking has allowed her to indulge this passion while getting valuable exercise that also reduces her fracture risk from her osteoporosis.

Since joining the St Monica Trust Stroll ‘n’ Chat walking group, She has enjoyed getting to know the local area around Bedminster through the walks. She has also enjoyed the group’s social side and especially loves hearing other people’s stories about the local area’s history. Living alone has led her to realise how the sociability of the group is so important in her life. This was highlighted when a pinched sciatic nerve last year led to a spell away from the walk group and the use of a walking stick for six months - this led to a realisation of the importance of being able to go out and join in activities in order to avoid isolation. This sense of belonging led her to want to play a more involved role in the group and she has recently done her Walking for Health walk leader training to allow her to officially lead the walks and take on more responsibility within the group.

Acknowledging how she feels less useful the older she gets, the taking on of the walk leader role has helped combat this and allowed her an outlet for being helpful. As a result of this official position looking after people on the walks, she has been able to utilise her previous experience from the local cancer charity and from her many years of professional experience. Through listening to people in the group she feels she has also learnt to participate more.

The group is much more than a walking group to her and the other leaders and attendees. As well as the exercise side and the many health benefits, the group is a social support network for everyone involved, allowing people to share health and emotional issues within a close knit group of experienced and caring friends. The huge boost this gives attendees is what keeps her and the other leaders motivated in their roles and committed to keeping the group moving.

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