It has been fascinating to observe the developments which have taken place since I became a FiSH volunteer almost thirty years ago. At that time, FiSH was comprised of a small group of “helpers” (as we were then known) serving Sheen and Mortlake and organised by Jean Lewis from her home. Tasks were fairly straightforward, collecting shopping or a pension or giving lifts, mainly to doctors or hospitals. My first job was to take two ladies to Sheen Lane Centre for the Bingo session, a job I carried out on many subsequent occasions. If they were lucky and won the weekly £2 prize I would be handed £1 for FiSH.
Over the years the work has greatly increased. I have met many different people in a variety of situations and taken them to many different places. Some people one meets only once, others many times, getting to know them and hearing regular news of their lives. One never knows what to expect when calling on someone for the first time. I recall one lady who I was asked to take to hospital – but found myself somewhat nonplussed when, starting to escort her to the car, she turned and said, “would you carry my leg please.” She appeared to have two legs but her spare prosthetic leg was resting in the corner and was to be taken with her for adjustment!
Through my work on the Helpline I have got to know many more clients and also volunteers with whom it is always a pleasure to talk. As a volunteer I found that whatever the variety of tasks I was asked to undertake I was rewarded with the satisfaction of having done something useful and worthwhile. As I read the regular Newsletters and see the range of services available to residents of Barnes, Sheen and Mortlake, I find it difficult to equate the FiSH of today with the FiSH I joined thirty years ago. However, the basic principles of FiSH remain the same: “to provide Friendship, independence, Support and Help to assist people to maintain their own independence.”