Marking World Kindness Day
WAY is all about peer support and extending kindness to other people who have lost a loved one. To mark World Kindness Day, we talked to WAY volunteer Tracey, who won WAY's Mandy Burrows Award this year for her outstanding contribution to our charity. She was nominated for the award for her work organising gifts swaps for children and WAY members at Christmas and during lockdown - as well as organising random acts of kindness…
I joined WAY in December 2013 following the death of my husband in the September. A good friend of mine gave me a book on how to cope with death and WAY was mentioned in the credits. I joined so I could have conversations with people who just "get it"; with people who empathise because they understand and not sympathise because they don't.
In the beginning, the Facebook page was a good sounding board – I was constantly posting. The anonymity helped – I could say anything and just tell my story. The biggest help was knowing I wasn't alone and whatever I was feeling was very normal, understandable even.
WAY has helped me grow and to feel comfortable being me. I've made friends for life and know that even in the darkest times, someone is listening and in the good times, someone will celebrate all the good things with me too.
When did you start volunteering for WAY?
I started arranging the odd meet up a few months after I joined. It was great to meet people in person. I helped out with activities in the Center Parcs weekend (for example, arranging trick or treating routes around the village, for kids and adults alike).
Tell us a bit more about your volunteering role and what it involves?
My volunteering roles in WAY have varied over my 7 year membership, including being an area assist for WAY-AYE in the North East of England. However, I'm probably most known in WAY for organising the WAY Secret Santa over the past few years. This involves allocating Santas to send gifts to adults and children in the WAY family. The Secret Santa has grown over the years and last year over 300 children and adults received gifts... so far this year, I have nearly 200 children receiving a gift.
During the first lockdown, I also ran a "Lockdown Squirrel", arranging gifts for WAY children from generous WAY members. This managed to bring some smiles to people during a very trying time.
My current project is "WAY RAOK", a group of over 350 members who are making people smile by sending little random acts of kindness (for example, a bar of chocolate or book). I love how many people are feeling less alone simply because someone cared enough to think of them.
What do you get out of being a WAY volunteer on a personal level?
I know that without WAY's volunteers when I first joined, I would have struggled with my grief. The support I got from meeting them, talking to them or simply reading their stories made me realise I could "weather the storm" and life would be good again... I have and it is!
I volunteer because I want to help others, it makes me feel good to see a smile, if only fleetingly, on a person who's experienced the worst trauma.