Sara R

Sara arrived in the UK from Iran in 2020. “In Iran I am a highly qualified and competent ITU nurse now a resident in the UK and eager to progress. I was extremely emotional and anxious as I had come from a position that I was recognised as being a leader in my field to now not be able to work due to my language barrier. I wanted to quickly learn the English Language and Maths to meet entry requirements for the NHS service as well as communicate in the Middlesbrough community.”

On the first day “I was really anxious of my inability to communicate effectively and speak the language – I remember being greeted at reception with a smile and someone with patience and the ability to communicate regardless of my language. I also met Kim the Careers Advisor on my first day and to be welcomed by such a warm personality and to ease my worries and give me reassurance is something I will not forget.

I believed in my plan from day 1 – Kim supported me to know the routeway back into medicine and, although I felt quite helpless at the time, the plan helped me to focus on goals of qualifications and volunteering until my language skills and abilities were such to pass the level of IELTS exam required.

Georgia, my tutor, encourages me and makes me believe in myself – all staff would take the time to speak with me and when I was down reassured me again.

My experience at The Hope Foundation has been a supported and positive one. The Hope Foundation staff – volunteers and class mates have made such a difference to my life. I look forward to my days of learning and feel hopeful and positive I can reach my goals in the not-so-distant future!”

Sara has achieved entry level Functional Skills qualifications in English and Maths. She is working towards level 1 English and has secured a voluntary role with the NHS at James Cook University Hospital

“I can now see my pathway back into medicine and believe that this is possible – I am travelling up the mountain instead of being at the bottom.”

Barbara and Jeanette

At the beginning of the first lockdown, ABM asked for volunteers to help provide technical support over the phone for older people in the area.

Fast forward and they now have 14 volunteers. One of the first to respond was Jeanette Power Jepson who had previously attended Tea and Tech at the Hope Foundation.
“Given that Ageing Better Middlesbrough has helped me achieve certain goals, I felt like I wanted to help others who were in my position.

David initially taught me how to shop online, use WhatsApp, surf the web, and generally become more up to speed with my device, so I really felt like I could help those who needed it.
The framework they provided was great too. It was very well structured, and I knew I was in a good position to pick up the phone and begin talking.”

For many ABM members, becoming part of the digital world is daunting and providing digital support during the Covid pandemic has been even more challenging for the team, but also really important:
“Giving information and digital support for people who had to stay home was vital. Many of them are worried, which only heightens their fear of having to use technology. It’s a domino effect…

I’ve helped people with doctor’s appointments, downloading games, WhatsApp, sending photos and emails, video calling and lots more. Once these steps are complete, you feel a huge sense of pride. Their reaction over the phone (when they complete various tasks), is fantastic.”

Barbara Gibbon’s story

73-year-old Barbara Gibbon is just one of the people who has benefitted from Ageing Better Middlesbrough’s digital volunteer initiative. She has received help from Jeanette (above) over the last few months and believes she has come on leaps and bounds.

“Initially I got a call from Ageing Better Middlesbrough’s Befriending Service to see how I was. I happened to mention that I struggled with technology during the call.

Their Digital Inclusion Officer, David, gave me help with online shopping, and after that, Jeanette has helped me with lots of other things.

To my amazement, I was able to send photos to my granddaughter who lives in Manchester… I even video called her! I think she was just as surprised as me when she saw the phone ringing.

I’m hoping to learn a lot more from Jeanette in the future, she’s been a saviour for me over the last couple of months. I’m also going to meet the team in person to thank them, and hopefully attend ‘Tea and Technology’ sessions.

The fact that Ageing Better Middlesbrough are providing an outlet like this is brilliant. I really appreciate their efforts. It’s given me a new lease of life and I’d be completely stuck without them. My daughter is less worried knowing I can video call her now too.”


Frank Savvery was supported during lockdown by the ABM Telephone Befriending Service.

This service was a huge support for Frank during such a difficult time; at a period in his life where he felt, lonely and was struggling with past trauma that caused frequent night terrors. Talking to a dedicated befriender helped ease his anxiety.

Frank had accessed local community initiatives and access support through ABM Digital Inclusion Team and agreed to transfer to Older Peoples Wellbeing Support Service in April 2021.

Digital Inclusion has provided Frank with an iPad and support to set up a personal email and online contact with his GP and health services. This has proved invaluable, as now Frank is able to arrange his own prescriptions and delivery of medication.

The surgery had changed the process of ordering a repeat prescription and before he received support from Digital Inclusion, Frank was unable to order his medication over email and was not receiving his medication on time.
During periods of ill health, Frank was unable to walk to the surgery to arrange his prescriptions and unable to collect from the pharmacy. This meant he could not take his prescribed medication and was at risk of seizures.

The Older Peoples Wellbeing Project has introduced Frank to Middlesbrough Environmental City Allotment project at Jellystone Grove Hill in Middlesbrough. He has been busy tending to the land and has planted vegetables that he is hoping to use to prepare nutritious meals when the produce is ready to harvest.

The sessions at Jellystone have facilitated opportunities for Frank to socially connect with other people and also an opportunity for Frank to continue as a volunteer when The Wellbeing Service ends in March 2022.
Frank is now attending other well-being sessions during the week that include Woodside Wellbeing Hub and outings that have been arranged with the service.

Frank has grown in confidence over the months and is less anxious within a larger group setting. He recently sent the following message:

‘Thank you if hadn’t been through you and The Hope Foundation I will probably be the same but use have brought me out of my shell and I thank everyone for doing this’