My name is Severina and I am originally from Equatorial Guinea and Spain. Before I needed help, I didn’t realise how important volunteers are, but I now fully appreciate the hard work they do. Their help and friendship has been so important is to me. I am sharing my story with you because I want the volunteers to know that I have seen the impact of their work. There are so many people who are not fortunate enough to have this experience, so I know I have been so very lucky.

When I first came to the UK I couldn’t speak any English. My daughter, who speaks the language well, told me I had to help myself. At first, these seemed like harsh words, but it made me determined to get out and improve my skills.

I found out about Volunteering Matters and their ‘Green Fingers’ project, run under Citywise, a London-wide initiative to encourage older people to volunteer. This project is a gardening and environmental activity for people aged 50+, encouraging them to grow and eat healthy food together and to develop cross cultural friendships. What a hole it fills.  After a hard day of gardening, we’re rewarded with wonderful meals cooked from the harvested vegetables. We have such a great time getting together each week, and I have made some lovely friends as a result.

Over time I have been encouraged to improve my English, and I now go to English grammar lessons with other volunteers – something which would never have happened had I not found this project.

Recently, I had a long spell in hospital, a time which could have been so lonely. Thanks to my friends from the project, and volunteers from the Volunteering Matters Befriending service, I was never lonely! I had so many visitors, the nurse asked me why I was so special, and I told her I was the Queen! My friends and the volunteers understood how I felt – they would come and talk to me and take me for little walks, and this helped me to forget my problems which definitely helped me with my recovery. I have truly benefited from the service.

After leaving hospital, the lovely Roberto and Libia call me about once a week and we have a good old chat. How special is it to have someone who cares enough for you that he is prepared to call for a chat and to check how I am?  The fact that someone calls or texts me means so much, it’s not just the contact, it is the fact that they are thinking of me which is very special to me. With support from Berth, I have been able to carry on with attending my English classes. She accompanies me from home to classes and we both improve our English in this way.

I am so very grateful to everyone who is involved in Citywise and the devotion of the volunteers.  Thank you all so much.