Volunteers Week: An Interview with Joe Cooke

To celebrate the amazing volunteers we have at Healthwatch Essex, we wanted to share a bit more about some of them as part of Volunteers Week.

Rachelle is a student who very kindly volunteered to interview some of our volunteers, and here is the blog she wrote when she talked to Joe Cooke, who has been a member of our Collaborate Essex Disability and Carers Forum since 2019.

Rachelle’s blog:

In my very first interview I sat across from Joe. Albeit there was a screen between us in this post pandemic style interview but, with his beaming smile and warm manner, it was hard not to feel as if he was sitting in the very same room.

After quick introductions I started on my five short questions. The first one, ‘Why do you volunteer with Healthwatch Essex?’ Joe’s answer came from his compounded experience of working with primary care groups, acting as a governor and generally being involved in community work. When he saw the ad for Healthwatch Essex he liked the idea of it, believing it to line up with the ideals he had practiced all his life. After a stumbling start where I stuttered and stammered and tried not to make the frantic typing of my answers too loud, I asked him, ‘What difference do you feel you are making and why?’ Here Joe disclosed a hidden jewel of information.

‘If we’re listened to we can make a difference,’ he felt that he was genuinely being listened to at HWE. His passion for what he did as a member of the disability and carers forum was evident as he explained, ‘if people lose their PIP they are dumped and left without any support,’, ‘appeal can take months’ and they’re left like ‘low hanging fruits’ (his very words). He strongly believes in people being supported with resources until appeal. As a hospital governor, his opinion on such matters is not to be taken lightly.

‘What is the best thing about volunteering with HWE?’ I asked. ‘The company,’ he replied. The support he felt he gained from being a part of the organisation was substantial. The diversity and plethora of personalities was also something he enjoyed at HWE. Here I decided to go rogue and throw in a question of my own. ‘In what ways do you feel you’ve personally benefitted from being a part of HWE?’ I sat with fingers poised over the keys, waiting to see how the question would be taken. The answer I got was deeply personal to Joe and one that reflected why he joined HWE in the first place. Joe joined the disability and carers forum after becoming a carer for his wife who was becoming increasingly disabled, a trait passed through his family to his daughter and grand-daughters. His wife had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Through HWE he had some enlightening presentations about the acknowledgement of dementia, Joe replied, information he wouldn’t have pursued in relation to his wife without the people at HWE. He made sure to stress how great the communication and networks were, owing his expansion of information on medical disorders (in part) to that.

We had reached the final of five questions of my relatively short interview. To cap it off I finally asked Joe ‘why do you believe in what HWE do?’ His answer, a resounding – ‘it works’. After a few seconds of silence where I wondered if anything else was coming I asked if he could clarify. Simply put, the system works, people are continually involved and the important questions are asked. Results were produced where people were getting the support they needed and learnt about their right to accessible information and guidance.

This concluded my first mini interview and the one thing I had learnt was that, not HWE was the supportive genuine type of organisation (which I already suspected it to be), but was that people wanted to be listened to. And if one thing was a resounding theme within this interview, it’s that Joe felt listened to and listened to others.