I wanted to travel to Africa because my dad is South African and had lived there for most of his life. He talks about the things he'd experienced which made me want to go! The South African experience, for me, looked perfect! Doing voluntary work, but also travelling combined with a set route made me at ease because I like to have a plan.
Reading and hearing reports in the media each day, it is impossible to deny that there is increased awareness of the issue of loneliness and isolation in older people in the UK. Since I founded the charity 49 years ago, Contact the Elderly has been actively involved in combating loneliness, providing over a million face-to-face friendship links via our monthly tea parties
I choose to volunteer as I love to see different ways of life which you can't do at a holiday resort. I wanted to take my granddaughter to give her life experience and for her to see how hard life can be in poorer countries. I think she understands more now how lucky she is not to want for anything, even food.
Experiencing a completely different way of life and culture made me draw comparisons to my own life. Obviously, it highlights issues of materialism and made me really appreciate the significance of family and community. There was only 5,000 people on the island I was working on. They all knew and loved each other and were so welcoming to the volunteers.
23 May, 2013, Idlib, Syria. A young British-Asian Muslim from Willesden dies while working in a field hospital. Dr Isa Abdur Rahman was volunteering as a doctor in a country where medics treating civilians have been tortured and killed. Hospitals are routinely attacked and there is a dire shortage, therefore, of medical staff willing to work under such circumstances. Isa was my nephew. He was 26. His name means 'Jesus', who is also named as a prophet in the Quran. In the Quran, Jesus' death is different but he still dies a young man striving for good. Isa felt this was his 'jihad', his 'struggle for good'.
Christmas... it's not just for children; the true spirit of Christmas is about peace and love. So, with that in mind, I'm not going to offer you style inspiration, this year, on how to make your winter wonderland look even more enchanting, I'd like to give you something else to think about, something - dare I say it - more important.
Today we celebrate volunteers and volunteering across the world. But for us this is not just a celebration of volunteers as a token, 'useful' contribution to enable the paid staff to carry on with their work; but as true partners, fellow family members working together to bring lasting change to people who are in pain.