accessibility & help

Volunteers needed to boost people's confidence and independence

4 December 2015

The British Red Cross in Plymouth is looking for volunteers to provide support at home to those who need help to regain confidence and independence, perhaps after a stay in hospital.

Valerie Francksen, an independent 79-year-old who moved to Plymouth from Croydon some years ago, is a big advocate of the service and is working hard to promote it to others having benefited personally after a recent stay in hospital for pneumonia.

Valerie has always been asthmatic but couldn’t believe it when, on 28 September, she was rushed to Derriford Hospital with pneumonia. She has high praise for the care she received on the respiratory ward and also for the support she had from a Red Cross volunteer after her return home in early October.

She says: “Fortunately a good friend did a shop for me and took me home from hospital. The next week the Red Cross contacted me and told me a volunteer called Shirley would be with me the next day at 2pm."

"A godsend"

“Shirley has been a godsend. For the first two weeks because I felt so weak she did the shopping for me. Then on the third week I had an appointment at the hospital for an x-ray, which Shirley took me to and she also did a small shop for me.

"The next week I had a doctor’s appointment and another volunteer called Geoff took me there and brought me home. After that I began to feel a lot stronger and started to go shopping with Shirley which gave me lots of confidence.”

Shirley Weatherall, 71, from Plymouth, started volunteering with the Red Cross five years ago when she retired from her career as a payroll clerk.

Volunteers needed

The Red Cross is now looking for more volunteers to join the support at home and mobility aids teams. Just a few hours each week can make a lot of difference to someone facing a difficult time in their lives.

Shirley says: “When I retired I knew I had to do something and I wanted to help people in my community so I got in touch with the Red Cross because it was local to me.

"At first I helped out in the mobility aids department and then I started visiting people in their homes. It gets me out and meeting different people and I also like driving so I enjoy taking people shopping and taking them to hospital appointments.

"I like the fact I’m helping someone to get a bit of confidence back and it’s also nice to be able to spend time with them to chat. I ask them about their family and tell them about mine. People always enjoy having a nice conversation.”

Val is gradually getting stronger and can’t speak highly enough of the help she’s had from the Red Cross. Now she’s working hard to promote the service to others. She’s already spoken to the practice manager at her doctor’s surgery and is also hoping that next year someone from the Red Cross will come and give a talk to the different groups she belongs to in Plymouth.

If you would like to find out more about volunteering contact Sam Snelling on 01752 831606 or email

To find out more about the Red Cross please visit


Notes to editors

For more information or interviews call Rebecca Gilbert on 0117 3012624 or email Please find attached a photograph of Valerie Francksen. Please credit Rebecca Gilbert/BRC. If you would like to arrange to get a photograph of Valerie and Shirley together contact Rebecca and this can be arranged.

The British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies. We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.

Follow us on Twitter: @RedCrossSouth

Related Tags: