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September 8, 2016

Cara – Mary and Heather’s story

Cara means friend in Irish. 

Sara Allkins, Community Connector at Leeds Irish Health & Homes, told us about the blossoming friendship of Heather and Mary thanks to the Cara project.

She described them as “Two ladies it has been my privilege to watch making friends over the short life of Cara so far. Humbling and beautiful.”

Here’s what they had to say for themselves.

What was life like for you before becoming involved in the Cara project? 

Mary: I was starting to come to terms with the loss of my husband and that change of circumstances, I wanted a place to fit in.

Heather: After being a long-term carer I felt very disconnected from the life of work and socialising.

Both: You lose the link, there’s no stepping out! (stepping out is a favourite Mary and Heather expression) We needed to start connecting up again.

Why did you get involved? 

Mary: I felt I had something to offer because of my old job working with older people. I wanted to bring a smile to someone’s face. We’ve both been there, Heather and I, feeling all the emotions under the sun. We can identify with people because we’ve been in the same position.

Heather: We connected because we’ve been in the same position, all the ups and downs. We also shared a career path – Old School Caring. I knew Leeds Irish because of the carers group. Mary was new to the organisation.

How did this help?

Heather: Making new friends and being part of something again after all the exhaustion, bereavement and loss. Talking about how you get back out there – reconnecting.

Mary: I missed being part of a team; Cara has filled that gap for me. It’s that empathy for people struggling with disabilities or problems. Some you can’t see.

What has changed for you as a result of the project?

Heather: We just seemed to click; we met here through Cara, we didn’t know each other before.

Mary: We were used to going out as a couple before; lots of friends are part of couples –how do you fit in with that? This is a new chapter, we get confidence together from being part of something.

What’s life like for you now? 

Heather: Much happier, stepping out a bit more, I’ve got back into the work force.

Mary: We keep contact here at Cara, contact with the unseen, the people sat at home, maybe drinking on an evening, I had to give myself a little talk about that. You need to have friends to talk to, someone outside your family, you are a different person with your friends than with family. Family have their own problems. You need someone for you – Cara can do that.

What do you plan to do next?

Heather: We’re part of the committee and we enjoy that. We’re having new experiences all the time. I’ve lived here years but I’m finding out about stuff only now. We’re taking on the challenges of trying new things.

What would you say to others who are thinking of getting involved?

Mary: Go for it! I would encourage them to do it – I’m trying to persuade one of my other friends to get involved.

Do you have anything else to add?

Heather: I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed volunteering and heartily recommend it to anyone wanting to find themselves again.

Mary: There is always someone to talk to; you make friends.