Charles and Jane Perryman have been volunteering for Marriage Care since 1989 and 1977 respectively, together they have clocked up nearly 70 years of volunteering. They have done a number of volunteering roles; they have run marriage preparation days and both of them are trained counsellors.
This year they are retiring – here is their story of why they hope that being a volunteer has left a lasting legacy for future generations. We think that is worth celebrating.
How did it all start?
‘Someone in my church asked me to volunteer. I’d heard of Marriage Care because my mother was a counsellor with Marriage Care in the 1950’s.
I thought I could manage volunteering around child care and Charles supported by looking after the children. It has been a team effort from the beginning. We could not have done it without each other.
We both grew up with a strong ethos of the importance of helping people. We realised that we could have an impact on couples if we showed that marriage could be worked at and was important. We believe that couples should be supported to have the best possible chance of staying together.’
What does volunteering for Marriage Care involve?
‘Our work is simple we focus on helping couples to look at what it is they need to do to sustain a relationship for a lifetime. Marriage preparation really helps couples to look at this and how this is consistent with what the Church says about marriage. If couples know what to do to help make their marriage work they can not only survive but thrive.
With counselling we meet couples whose relationships are in trouble. We’ve helped them to rebuild and get to know each other. This has a huge benefit for them and their children. No matter how bad the relationship as long as each person is willing to listen to each other there is an opportunity for restoration. If we can help put relationships back together then this will impact future generations.
It isn’t always easy you have to start just by listening and taking the challenges seriously. The turning point is when couples start to talk about their pain and you know that the other person has heard it.’
How have you seen things change over the years?
‘Socially so much has changed since we started, we have had to keep up with the times. As a counsellor our role is to be there for the couples – listening and not being threatening or preaching. Marriage Care has and will continue to adapt to changing nature of relationships while staying true to their focus.
Marriage Care is also moving with the times, by evolving the training and support for volunteers so that volunteers can deliver the best possible support to couples.’
What has made you stick at it for so long?
‘We are passionate about supporting couples to help them have the support they need to live in fulfilling relationships. There are still massive challenges and so much to be done.’
What makes Marriage Care special?
‘The fact that the service is delivered by volunteers. If we had paid counsellors we would have to have a fixed charge for counselling, which would mean so many couples wouldn’t be able to access our services. Volunteers have a real passion for what they are doing. All of our counsellors are very professional – we want to see a positive outcome for all the couples we meet.
Volunteering for Marriage Care has been so rewarding. We are passionate about seeing relationships grow. It is just so important for the Church and society. We hope that in some small way we have made an impact on relationships for today and for future generations.’
Our team of 700 trained and passionate volunteers provide marriage preparation and relationship counselling at a low cost through our 50 centres and 100 counselling locations across England and Wales. We simply couldn’t do what we do without volunteers like Charles and Jane.
Interview and editing by Emily Petty
This article first appeared on Your Catholic Legacy’s website.