Sheila and Fenella’s Story

27th April 2023

For Intergenerational Week we talked to some of our amazing volunteer pairs about their volunteering partnership.  We talk here to Sheila and Fenella – a pair of regular Online Reading Volunteers.

Here’s what they had to say …

Shelia: I’m Sheila – I’m 83 years old and I have been volunteering for Doorstep Library for the past year as an Online Reading Volunteer. I have two daughters and a granddaughter, and I used to be a primary school teacher, so I appreciate the importance of children being read to, and learning to read themselves. Reading was my favourite pastime as a child and I would like all children to experience the enormous pleasure it can bring.

Fenella:  I’m Fenella and I am currently a third-year student at University College London. I am a regular Online Reading Volunteer with Doorstep Library.

Q1. Why did you want to volunteer with Doorstep Library?

Sheila: Doorstep Library was mentioned in an article in the SAGA Magazine and I thought it was an excellent idea. I believe that the ability to read is the key that opens the door to all other subjects.  You cannot solve a maths problem if you can’t read the question properly. As I mentioned earlier, the love of reading gives a lifetime of pleasure. Reading fiction allows you to immerse yourself in a different place and use your imagination. Non-fiction greatly increases your knowledge of everything in the world, including yourself. Both enhance your vocabulary, helping you to understand others and to express yourself more clearly. The fact it was online was particularly appealing during these Covid times.

Fenella: I had been looking for a volunteering opportunity at the beginning of my final year of study. My university held a Volunteering Fair and that is where I came across Doorstep Library! I really loved the idea of being able to foster a child’s passion for reading and the ability to do so online was perfect for fitting it in with my own schedule – and so I began the process of becoming a volunteer!

Q2. As it’s Intergenerational Week, how and why do you think your age (whether older or younger) impacts the children you visit?

Sheila: I don’t know how my age impacts the children and I hope it has no detrimental effect.  I should think I could be old enough to be their great-grandmother if they have one.

Fenella: There is perhaps the assumption that reading is not fun or exciting enough for young people. I, therefore, hope that by volunteering with the children I am showing them that books and reading are truly wonderful things no matter how old you are!

Q3. How do you think your age impacts your volunteering partner?

Sheila: I don’t know how my age impacts my volunteering partner, but I am sure she will tell you!  I think we work very well together and I hope she does too. It is wonderful volunteering with a younger partner, particularly Fenella because she is so quick with all the ‘tech stuff’ but patient with me when necessary.

Fenella: Volunteering with Sheila has been wonderful. I came in as a new volunteer, but her experience with the process meant she was able to talk me through a lot of it as I got my bearings in the first couple of sessions. We have been able to help one another with the use of Zoom and the online reading websites, which we have both struggled with at points but managed to work it out together in the end!

Q4. How do you think Doorstep Library helps bridge the age gap between its volunteers and families?

Sheila: Doorstep Library arranges ‘workshop’ sessions for group volunteer discussions and offers ideas to try out with the families.

Fenella: Doorstep Library is such a great organisation in that it brings together such a variety of ages and generations both within the volunteering itself and also with the families. Showing the children that a passion for reading can exist across all age groups is amazing as it shows them that they are fostering an interest for life.

Q4. What would be your advice for others who are thinking of volunteering at Doorstep Library?

Sheila: I have found being a volunteer for Doorstep Library very rewarding and enjoyable and would urge any potential volunteer to just, ‘go for it’!

Fenella:  Go for it! I am so happy that I decided to volunteer with Doorstep Library. Not only are they the most welcoming team, but it has been great to volunteer alongside someone else [Sheila], and experience the process together. It is truly the most rewarding part of my week and I consistently look forward to it. Reading with the families has been incredible and there is nothing better than seeing the children get excited about a book!