A hard-working handyman has spoken of the tragic personal circumstances that inspired him to start volunteering. Former Scout leader Alan Campany offered his services to East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) following the death of wife Val.
The pair had been married for 49 years, having dated for the previous four, but, following severe depression, Val died by suicide in January 2017. She had been a long-term supporter of EACH and it was thanks to her loyalty and dedication that Alan decided to join the charity’s Help at Home service.
He has been involved for just over five years and carries out all sorts of maintenance jobs both in family homes and at The Treehouse, in Ipswich. He describes his volunteering as a “lifesaver”, following the “truly unimaginable” loss of Val.
“She was a wonderful wife – the most beautiful person, both inside and out – and we’d been together since we were teenagers,” said Alan, who lives in Kesgrave.
“I was the one who found her that awful morning and, understandably, I’ve struggled ever since. It was truly unimaginable. I know my grieving isn’t over – perhaps it will never end – but, to be frank, volunteering has been my lifesaver.
“Val had been a supporter of EACH and, in her remembrance, I joined as a volunteer at the end of 2017. Having forged so many new friendships with staff and volunteers, I feel very grateful and fortunate and I’m thankful to the families who’ve allowed me into their homes, gardens and lives.
“They’ve given me hope and something to live for.”
Alan, 76, hides nothing about what happened to Val. He is always happy to share his experiences when in conversation with staff and fellow volunteers.
“I’ve always been open about what happened and have nothing to be ashamed of. Neither does Val,” said the former insurance worker, who later spent a decade driving trucks before retiring in 2016.
“I’ll never hide anything. Due to my own tragic circumstances, I can quietly share at least some of the feelings and emotions many of our families experience.
“They’ve been an inspiration to me and I don’t underestimate the daily challenges they face. I don’t know how they cope, to be honest. EACH gives them limitless support and every job volunteers do, whether large or small, shows how much we care.
“I hope I can go on helping for many years to come and I get much pleasure from being able to decorate, repair and paint fencing, sheds or summerhouses. I’ve also laid patios and Astro turf, tended to gardens, moved pianos, replaced taps and cisterns and finally, but unforgettably, been asked to move more than 50 snakes!
“It’s nothing more than any of our volunteers do for our wonderful, deserving families.”
Alan, who loves horses and harboured early ambitions of being either a jockey or mounted policeman, enjoys the company of his fellow volunteers and says he would wholeheartedly encourage others to join them.
“I try to devote as much time and support as possible, but just a few occasional hours from any prospective volunteers looking for something worthwhile to do would always help and be so appreciated by every family,” he said.
“We’re often told we make a difference to their lives and that, in itself, encourages us onwards. To mums and dads, my message would be to keep your requests coming. And to all prospective volunteers, I’d say to pick up the phone and find out more. You definitely won’t regret it.”
EACH supports families and cares for children and young people with life-threatening conditions.
Its Help at Home service pairs volunteers with a family so they can provide vital practical support with things like gardening, decorating or any other tasks the family needs doing. The service also includes helping with dog-walking, cooking, cleaning, shopping, sibling support and DIY.
To read more about Help at Home, click here.