Partner Case Study: Community Navigators - Mike
Read Mike's Story

Mike – Community Navigator volunteer

Why did you become a Community Navigator? 

“I took up the role because there is a great awareness these days of the prevalence of isolation in older people and its detrimental effect on their quality of life. Being a Community Navigator means being part of a team which is doing something positive about it and helping people on an individual level.

“To be a Community Navigator is to be given the great privilege of helping people with, what to them, often feels to be their most pressing need, contact with other people and this doesn’t necessarily decrease as you get older. Isolation can lead to despair and it is a great pleasure to be able to help people break out of their isolation and be invigorated by companionship and activity.”


How have you helped make a difference to people’s lives through the project?

“As Community Navigator volunteers we are only just beginning, but already we have been able to link someone with an interest in carpentry to a  very friendly wood working group and another person who had been a chef was delighted when we told him that there was a Kitchen on Prescription which helps people cook for their particular medical condition. Perhaps once they settle into the new activity they will become volunteers themselves in that activity and help others.

“Others have accompanied people to a Tai Chi group and another to a local knitting group. There are a great many groups that cater for a wide range of interests and part of our function is to match them up. However, I must say that it is the social aspect which is of more importance than the actual activity.

“I enjoy meeting people and working with them to make their lives more enjoyable. The challenge is to find something that interests them but is also accessible to them. This raises issues of transport and personal limitations due to lack of confidence, health issues or finance.

“The primary skill we use is listening carefully to what is being said and also perhaps in being able to read between the lines, without making assumptions, or allowing our own preferences to colour our judgement.”


How has becoming a Community Navigator impacted your own life?

“Being involved with the Community Navigators has given me new momentum. I had got a bit stale but now I have new purpose and I find the challenge of the task invigorating. I also get a buzz out of meeting people and trying to help them with their various difficulties.

What we are trying to do for others through the Community Navigator project is fulfilling for me and is bound to be benefiting me in all sorts of ways.”


How do you feel about your community since becoming a Community Navigator?

“I have a better awareness of what is going on around me with respect to the community: the groups, the activities and the social transport. I am also more aware of people’s personal situations and lifestyles and more likely to get into conversation with them about what they do with their time and what they would like to do.”


What would you say to others who are thinking of getting involved?

“It would be difficult to be in a caring role such as Community Navigator without having a caring disposition. It helps to be able to come alongside people and with them go through the journey from whatever degree of isolation they’re experiencing  to whatever degree of social activity they are comfortable with. The main necessary attribute is to want to do something practical for people - the rest usually follows.”


Can you briefly outline the sorts of tasks (examples) you do with the older people you work with as a Community Navigator, and the skills you use?

I suppose the first task, as a Community Navigator, is as far as possible, to get to know the person. This is helped by the information already given but perhaps even more important is to sit and talk about their present situation as well as their past and their future aspirations. These conversations might take place in the home or in a community setting such as a local coffee shop.  Of course this is entirely at their speed and under their control. Tact and sensitivity are essential.

Once we know the persons interests, wishes and also their limitations, if any, we can start to research the possibilities within the local area. Volunteers have each been given an encrypted tablet for research on the internet and for recording information. We can identify promising activities, make more detailed enquiries if necessary and even accompany the individual if they would find it helpful.

The primary skill we use is listening carefully to what is being said and also perhaps in being able to read between the lines, without making assumptions, or allowing our own preferences to colour our judgement. The tablet is extremely useful for research and basic computer skills are helpful.


How did the BCH team prepare you for becoming a CN?

My preparation for the role involved shadowing a health professional, a physiotherapist on her visits and then accompanying experienced Community Navigators on their visits before visiting alone. There are also group training sessions to explain the role and also for particular aspects such as Health & Safety.


Describe volunteering as a Community Navigator in three words…!

Rewarding;  stimulating;  enjoyable.

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