Eileen has spent her life in the racing and bloodstock world and now runs a busy stud with her husband, Keith. She started volunteering with Racing Welfare’s Check-In and Chat service in 2020, during the first Covid-19 lockdown after losing her dad to the virus in April that year.
Not long after her father’s death, Racing Welfare’s newsletter popped into Eileen’s inbox, appealing for volunteers to help make calls to those at risk of loneliness and isolation during the pandemic.
Eileen recalls: “I read the newsletter and thought – this is meant to be, he wants me to help other people.
“I knew helping someone else would help me. I just had to make sure I was in a good enough place to be able to help someone, rather than make it all about me and my needs.”
Eileen contacted Racing Welfare to register her interest and completed the volunteer training. Within a few weeks she felt ready to make her first call.
She said: “Even just the training made me feel a bit better about what I was going to do.
“There was lots of support and resources, from opening lines and how to introduce myself, to setting boundaries. So, I felt very prepared to make my first call.
“I just had to introduce myself and that was it, they were off! It was never awkward. I think having something in common through racing helped – all my befriendees knew a lot more than me. I had to do my homework before I called them!”
Eileen has now been volunteering with the service for three years and recognises the important role it plays not only for those on the end of the call, but for her own wellbeing. Though, she admits that initially there was the temptation to continue multitasking whilst making her regular calls.
She said: “Very early on I actually got caught typing up an email whilst I was on one of my calls, my lady asked: ‘are you typing?’. I felt so bad about it, I wasn’t there and wasn’t being present for them. It was a great lesson for me.
“Here was me having my lovely chat but trying to do something else as well. From that moment on I thought, yes, this is their time. They look forward to this call, and I should use it as my break time, time to come away from the screen.
“It’s so good for me to stop everything and give someone fifteen minutes to chat away about the week. It’s so refreshing. It’s definitely part of my self-care routine. I’m a better listener now.”
Eileen continues to be as enthusiastic as ever about her volunteering with Racing Welfare. It does, indeed, suggest that this was meant to be.