The Evening Post is celebrating the region’s unsung community heroes. In the third in our series, Natalie Walker speaks to Bev Sharrock, who is helping adults with complex neurological needs to feel more empowered.
The 49-year-old, of Preston, began using Sue Ryder’s services at Cuerden Hall 10 years ago as she was determined to get her life back on track after developing antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), which has left her in a wheelchair.
She found staff and volunteers were so useful in helping her, she recently became a volunteer, acting as an ambassador at inductions and spreading the Sue Ryder message in the local community.
Her sense of humour, even in the face of what she is experiencing with her own condition, cheers up the residents of Cuerden Hall, and she has just started Table Talk, an empowering game to help residents open up, reminisce and think independently.
She said: “I started getting ill 23 years ago but it took a long time to diagnose me. APS is similar to MS and I have been in a wheelchair for 15 years.
“I can’t walk and struggle with a few things.
“Around 15 years ago I had a series of mini strokes and I couldn’t speak for two years. It was really frustrating but things slowly began to improve.
“I started going to Cuerden Hall and it completely changed my life. I am living a life, rather than an existence.
“That’s why I became a volunteer as I wanted to give something back.
“I came up with an idea to start a conversation group to get residents talking.
“For those who can’t get out of bed I go into their rooms and read to them and have a chat.
“I want to get the residents to come out of themselves and get them talking and to tell me what they enjoy doing.
“Helping other people has really helped me and it has been like therapy.”
Bev is also a skilled fund-raiser, supporting numerous charities including Sue Ryder, and she launched earlier this year the ‘OSCARS’, ‘Outstanding Care and Support Awards Residents’ to recognise the work of the centre’s staff.
She added: “My mum, Sylvia Usher, 71, and I have been doing a lot of fund-raising by organising concerts. ALl money raised goes back into Cuerdan Hall and its residents to help them.
Bev’s selfless actions have earned her highly commended in the Unsung Hero Volunteer Award organised by Sue Ryder.
She added: “I’ve found the whole thing an amazing experience. I’m humbled to win an award. I do it to give something back to the centre for what they have done for me.”
Laura Brewer, Sue Ryder, volunteer engagement co-ordinator, said: “Bev is the brightest character you’ll ever meet, with a heart of gold. Undoubtedly the most selfless person I have met, and we love her to bits.”
Awards were presented to Bev, along with the winners and highly commended in eight other categories at The Dunchurch Park Hotel, in Warwickshire.
The annual ceremony is an opportunity to share successes and inspire others to volunteer by showing the impact one individual can have.
More than 12,000 volunteers across the country help Sue Ryder provide compassionate support and incredible care to people living through the challenges of life-limiting illness.
Tracey Le Gallez, head of volunteering at Sue Ryder, said: “Each and every one of our volunteers is invaluable to us and we can’t thank them enough for giving us their time and skills. So many people help us by volunteering in our shops, care centres and offices, and in their local community. Without their support, we simply could not exist”.
To volunteer or make a donation to support the work of Sue Ryder, call 01772 627374, or 0845 050 1953 or visit http://www.sueryder.org