Remote Volunteering – Something To Suit Everyone

Remote working, hybrid working, home based working – the pandemic has hastened a move to more flexible ways of working that are proving to be more convenient, good for our wellbeing and family friendly. However, it’s not just paid employment that is seeing this positive shift, the world of volunteering is becoming much more flexible offering many home based and remote volunteer roles.

At Food Train our Connects service has many such opportunities, let me tell you about a few – we offer a fantastic home based opportunity to become a ‘Phone Friend’ , you would be matched up with an older person who you would call for a weekly a chat. The calls usually last between 30 mins and an hour and can happen at any time of the week that suits both you and your phone friend.

Another amazing opportunity is to become one of our ‘Online Shoppers’ you would be paired up with an older person who requires an online shopping placed for them, you would call them at a regular, agreed time to chat through their shopping list and place the order for them online. Or how about being one of our ‘Shopping Companions’? You would be paired with an older person in your local community to take them out to do their own grocery shopping, the day and time you do this would be agreed between the two of you alternatively you could be ‘Shopping Friend’ – going to do an older person’s shopping for them and taking it to their home.

Then there is our meal sharing service, we recruit volunteer cooks who will provide a home cooked meal, once a week, to an older person in their local area. It’s a lovely opportunity, just make an extra portion of the family meal you are making anyway and deliver to the older person you are paired with.

That’s not all! There is also the chance to be one of our ‘Telephone Supporter’ volunteers, these volunteers can help with various different tasks including phoning several older people to collect their shopping lists or checking in on them and their volunteers to ensure the service they are receiving from Food Train is all going well.

Not only do all these roles ensure that older people are given the support and friendship they need but all roles are flexible, remote and home based, no requirement to come in to our Food Train offices. Recruitment, induction and training are all completed remotely too.

At Food Train our mission is to support older people to eat well, age well and live well in their own homes as long as they wish, anyone interested in helping us with our mission by joining our team of amazing remote volunteers can find out more and sign up here

There really is something for everyone.




Well, this certainly hasn’t been the six months that I thought it was going to be.  On 27th April 2020 I sat down in my home office, at the same desk I have sat at for the past 12 years but this wasn’t a usual work day, this was the first day in a new job. I had jumped on board the Food Train with the remit to launch their new service, ‘Connects’.      

It was the height of the Covid 19 pandemic and I had just entered the whirlwind of activity that is Food Train. No face to face introductions with new colleagues, no on-site inductions and no in-person meetings with my new manager. All was virtual but it was a very warm and friendly welcome and I felt at home straight away.  I met all my colleagues in zoom meetings and over Microsoft Teams and six months later have still not met anyone face to face.

Food Train has been supporting older people for over 25 years now, our branches across several local authority areas in Scotland are providing a regular weekly food shopping service plus a variety of other services. Within Food Train there is also Mealmakers and Eat Well Age Well, Mealmakers is a local neighbourhood food-sharing project that connects people who love cooking and an older neighbour who would appreciate a freshly cooked meal and some company. Eat Well Age Well is a national project tackling malnutrition in older people living at home.    

Food Train had plans to develop another new service, ‘Connects’, which would aim to cover all parts of Scotland where we don’t have branches. The plan was to match volunteer shoppers on a one to one basis with an older person in their neighbourhood to do their regular grocery shopping for them.

Then the pandemic struck.

The ‘Connects’ plans were accelerated as the offer of a volunteer Shopping Friend for older people unable to get their own shopping become more important than ever. I joined Food Train at this moment and was tasked with getting this service off the ground.

At the same time a huge operation was happening across Food Train, not only to maintain our vital services but to regularly call all members to check in on them and ensure they were OK.  A massive task involving both staff and volunteers.  Over the months it became clear that these regular calls were highly valued and provided an essential support line for isolated, older people.  It was decided that we would provide a regular phone call service under the ‘Connects’ umbrella and ‘Phone Friends’ was launched.

Six months down the line and although I still feel like the ‘newbie’ I also feel like I’ve been here forever thanks to the welcoming atmosphere at Food Train. The Food Train Connects service is flourishing with both Shopping Friends and Phone Friends attracting a great deal of interest from both volunteers and older people.

The Connects staff team is growing and we are a small but perfectly formed group with great plans for the future of the service – a service which is a vital lifeline for so many older people. Connects not only offers grocery shopping and regular telephone calls but provides a real connection to the community, a friendly face and a blether.

It’s been a quick six months in unusual circumstances but I’m delighted that I have spent it developing and launching such a fantastic service that will benefit so many older people across Scotland.

I’m looking forward to the next six months and more at Food Train Connects.

Morna O’May

Service Manager

Food Train Connects

0800 304 7924




Anti-ageing! It’s everywhere.

There’s lotions, potions, creams and make-up. Shampoo, moisturisers, face masks and toothpaste. There’s anti-ageing diets promoting superfoods, revitalisng drinks, vitamins, herbal mixes, homeopathic remedies and juicing whilst at the same time we read the latest story about the oldest person on the planet reaching that age on wine, chocolate and a maverick attitude!

We’re told about anti-ageing exercises, treatments, laser surgery, sun lamps and cosmetic procedures. We’re advised on clothes, underwear, hairstyle, hair colour and even eyebrow shape!

There are books, magazines, dvds, radio programmes, tv programmes, you tube channels, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Snaps, Insta influencers, podcasts and blogs all dedicated to anti-ageing.

We can even go on retreats, workshops and seminars to learn, discuss and discover the best ways to beat ageing.


Ageing is a sign of survival- what’s the alternative? Not surviving? Not a great option. We need to celebrate having survived and realise that the wrinkles, the lines, the grey hairs are a mark of success, of having reached a point in life that is your new record and you beat that record every day by getting older day by day. A ‘personal best’ you might say.

Whilst there appears to be a huge industry in ‘ anti-ageing’ and there is a myriad of ways that are promoted to be able to ‘stay young’, it can’t be denied that we are, all of us, not staying young! And that surely is the point.

We are all getting older and that is a good thing, we should stop trying to defy ageing and, instead, live positively. Shake off the dreadful, negative, old age stereotypes and ask yourself what is so bad about ageing that it has created such an ‘anti’ industry?

Let’s all be pro-age and let’s call out and challenge all the age discrimination that exists out there which has led to this huge ‘anti-ageing’ phenomenon.

Let’s do it today.


twitter: @mornaomay




It’s that time of year when the advent calendars make an appearance. Do you have one that gives you a chocolate every day, have you purchased 24 surprises for your children’s calendar?

How about trying something a bit different this year? Here is the GoodStuffGreatIdeas advent calender which features a great Third Sector organisation each day throughout December. Each day there is a different charity to learn about and if you like their work, give them a follow, like their page, share their links, find out more, volunteer with them, fundraise for them or make a donation…..

….and share this blog so everyone has the chance to do this too.

Merry Christmas


Chief Encounters

A recent interview I did with Third Force News

What makes a good day at work?

Hearing about the comments made by the older guests in our groups. This week a new guest said “I thought this was going to be really stuffy but I’ve never laughed so much in a long time.”

What makes you most proud of Contact the Elderly?

In 50 years our basic ethos hasn’t changed. Sunday afternoon tea parties for groups of isolated, older people. It’s a simple, effective idea and it works so we keep doing it. I am most proud of the wonderful army of volunteers who enable us to keep doing this, they’re a brilliant bunch.

Do you socialise with colleagues outside the Christmas party?

Yes, absolutely. In Scotland we have a fantastic team and it makes for a supportive working environment when you know you can also call your colleagues your friends.

What’s the best thing that’s happened this month?

Two best things actually – we launched our campaign ‘Be Our Guest’ to encourage more isolated older people to join our groups. It’s creating interest which is great because isolated, older people exist in every community, the challenging part is reaching them and letting them know about our groups.

Secondly, we have been shortlisted for The Herald Society Award for best Older People’s Project in Scotland.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Don’t be concerned about feeling grown-up – you never do. And neither does anyone else!

Is the third sector a calling or an accident?

Whilst in a corporate role I liaised with the various Charities of the Year. I met with the representatives of several charities and used to think “I’d quite like to have your job”. So part calling, part accident.

Is getting older in our society getting harder?

I believe it is. Families are more dispersed, we have many older guests in our groups with family all over the world. Social media and digital technology has its place and the use of video chat certainly helps but nothing beats face to face contact which is where our tea parties play such an important role.

If you were your boss would you like you?

I think so, I’ve had some great bosses and I’m still friends and in touch with them so hopefully this means they have liked being my boss. One of them is actually now one of our volunteers.

Do you volunteer, and if so what do you do?

Yes, with Mealmakers, The Worldwide Tribe, Mary’s Meals, a local refugee support group and Stirling Soup. Mostly befriending and fundraising.

You’re home, fully fed with your feet up – which comes first Eastenders or emails?

Emails – but not work ones, personal ones.

What’s the best book ever written?

A Garden of Eden in Hell by Alice Hertz-Sommer.  At 110 Alice was the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor. A concert pianist, she used her music to survive the concentration camps with her young son.

A very close second is Sally Magnusson’s Where Memories Go, the story of her mother’s life with dementia and how music kept her connected to her family. Ultimately this experience led to Sally founding the charity, Playlist for Life.

Two books that highlight the amazing power of music.

What cake would you take to a tea party?

Someone else’s. I’m definitely not a baker but there are so many fabulous bakers amongst our tea party hosts. I’ll leave the baking to those who do it really well.

What advice would you give to someone who’s worried about an elderly neighbour?

Speak to them, ask if you can help. Suggest organisations that may be able to help. Most importantly keep the communication going, maybe all that is needed is a cup of tea and a chat.

Which Brian Cox?

Actor – because he’s William Wallace’s Uncle Argyle.

Morna O’May is Head of Service at Contact the Elderly.

Are you a volunteer?

Volunteering quote 2

Are you a volunteer?

Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes and volunteering roles also come in all shapes and sizes, indeed you may not even immediately think of yourself or others as volunteers.

Volunteers’ Week is the perfect time to reflect on what exactly we think of volunteering. During Volunteer Week organisations including Volunteer Scotland, SCVO and the Third Sector Interfaces have been thanking, showcasing and celebrating volunteers all over the country. Voluntary organisations have shown their appreciation for their volunteers by taking part in online awards ceremonies, presenting digital certificates and highlighting the fantastic work done by their amazing volunteers.

Volunteering takes many forms and some are very obvious like working a shift in a charity shop, donating your time as a befriender to a refugee arriving in this country or sharing your skills as a trustee on a board. All clearly identifiable volunteering roles. Other types of volunteering may not be so obvious and we may not immediately define it as volunteering. There’s the parent who helps sell raffle tickets at the playgroup fundraiser or helps out on the school trip or the young man who cuts his older neighbours grass or collects their newspaper for them. Is this volunteering, is this being neighbourly or is it ‘just what you do’?

All these small acts and larger acts add up to a lot of volunteering in our society. The Charity sector is largely held up by volunteers and the public sector is supported to a greater or lesser degree by the volunteering that exists across these services.

There are staggering figures available detailing the amount of hours given in volunteering, the equivalent in monetary terms and the benefits this brings to our society. I’m not going to go into figures and percentages here. Suffice it to say that it is eye-watering!

Without this level of volunteering activity many services simply would not exist and the value goes way beyond the task, expertise or time donated.

This huge amount of volunteering may appear in various guises, it may not even be called volunteering. You may be a ‘charity champion’, an ‘ambassador’, a ‘helper’, an ‘active citizen’, ‘engaged with a charity’, ‘knowledge or skills sharer’, an ‘unpaid professional’ or ‘just being neighbourly’. You may volunteer as an individual, as a family, as a group or with workplace colleagues.

All of the above is essential and irreplaceable and needs to be acknowledged for what it is. For all the recognisable volunteering being applauded and celebrated by the many organisations during Volunteer’s Week, let’s also acknowledge and thank all those who are contributing to this huge and valueable resource.

Now, let me ask my question again.

Are you a volunteer?

If you are – then thank you.

Morna O’May Volunteer quote