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Jobs from the Reach files - 15

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In this regular series Olive Braman tells how volunteers can use their skills and expertise through REACH, the charity that places professional and business people in part time voluntary jobs

You can find all the Jobs From the REACH Files articles from the Volunteering Index

From business to memory boosting

Getting publicity for new businesses and writing life stories of  elderly people are perfect outlets for the skills of Ann Gomar. Ann is a volunteer with REACH, the charity that helps professional people find voluntary work that uses their expertise. 

As an ex public relations and communications manager, Ann is well-placed in her two, very different, voluntary jobs. One is advising young people with the Prince’s Trust on how to obtain publicity when setting up their own businesses. The other is writing the life stories of people in a residential home in Tunbridge Wells.

Ann’s career began in earnest in 1974, when her husband was involved in a serious car accident. “I had to return to work, and with only a short career in journalism behind me before marriage and motherhood, I thought PR was proportional representation!  Learning on the job and with no letters after my name I ended up being PR and Communications Manager for an international building manufacturing company.”

Now, in retirement, she still produces a small bi-annual magazine for the company, but also gains great pleasure from her voluntary work.

“Taking elderly people back to incidents in early life is believed to be valuable therapy,” she says. “It can help memory loss and can prove very stimulating. One or two are a bit nervous about being interviewed so I don’t use a tape recorder but rely on memory and my notes. Sometimes I take my dog along and he helps to break the ice.

“I enjoy hearing about experiences in the war, the bombing, the rationing, being in the Home Guard or the ARP; or getting married in handmade dresses made out of parachute silk with very little time or money for such luxuries as honeymoons. Those were hard times with all the shortages and restrictions. It was difficult to find a place to live and some had to face the heartache of having their children evacuated. Also, especially for those outside London, wages were often poor and work, in particular farm work, was very hard.”

Ann takes great care of the old photographs that she is loaned and arranges to have them copied. Ultimately she will produce a book which will be displayed in the residential home.

It’s a dramatic switch working with the Prince’s Trust.  Ann emphasises to her young entrepreneurs that they cannot overestimate the value of publicity in getting a new business up and running. “I tell them that people need to know that your business exists and what it offers,” she says. “A good story which is featured in the press is worth the equivalent of hundreds of pounds spent on advertising.  So we think of what the business has to offer that makes it different or special.

“I am very keen on the benefits of volunteering, both to the voluntary organisation and to the volunteer,” she said. "There’s one particular message that I would like to get across to those people who may think that it's necessary to have a long list of qualifications to be welcomed at REACH. It isn’t – your actual skills and experience are what count, and your desire to be of help.”

For further information about REACH, see website

For further information about the work of the Princes’ Trust
telephone 0207 543 1234

Look out for future features from Olive Braman on Jobs From The REACH Files or view all the REACH Files Articles from our Volunteering Index


laterlife interest

The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

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