Volunteers Week Celebrations

 

Volunteers Week Celebration 2018

Early in June we celebrated Volunteers Week and to mark the occasion we organised a get together with food and drink in a local pub to thank those who have volunteered with us over the last year.  The event was well attended and enjoyed by all. Many of our volunteers have been with us for a number of years and some have joined us more recently.

One of our volunteers who has been with us for a while told me about some of the benefits she experiences from her volunteering. She said

The elderly ladies I have visited all came to the Ealing area from other countries, and I have found that our conversations have given me a fascinating insight into their past experiences which I really appreciate. I would never have learned about these things had I not met them through my VLS visiting.    Sue

Another volunteer who joined us about six months ago said the following about his volunteering

The 95-year-old gentleman I visit is a quip-a-minute marvel, and has a wealth of humorous anecdotes dating back to his army-service years in North Africa and Italy. I’m so fortunate to have him as my befriendee and to have the unparalleled support of the superb Volunteer Link team.   Richard

These words are from just two of our volunteers saying some of the things that they get from their volunteering, and there is so much more! Is befriending a lonely and isolated person in their home through Volunteer Link, something you might consider? Our next available training courses will be in September and October. Please let me know if you would like to apply to join us. Ring Bridget on 020-8434-3635 or email at volunteering@volunteerlink.org.uk

 

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Do You Want to be Happier and Healthier?

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We all know how volunteering benefits others but did you know that volunteering has been proved to be hugely beneficial for volunteers themselves?  Just look on the internet and you’ll find many articles about how doing good for others helps us to lead healthier and happier lives.

Firstly, research has shown that volunteering can decrease the risk of depression. Volunteering increases social interaction as it involves meeting new people and developing new relationships.  It also helps build a support system based on common interests. Both of these factors have been shown to decrease depression.

Volunteering also gives a sense of purpose and teaches valuable skills. The work that Volunteer Link volunteers do in providing a much needed service to lonely and isolated people gives purpose and meaning to the lives of those providing the service.  Volunteers also learn useful skills both in formal training and whilst volunteering.

Volunteering can also help us to keep mentally active, a study released by John Hopkins University in 2009 shows that volunteering actually increases brain functioning. Furthermore in our stressful world volunteering has been shown to reduce stress, as spending time with others in need can give a sense of meaning and appreciation, which can be calming.

The feel good sense that you get after a workout can also apply to volunteering. It comes from a release of dopamine in the brain after having helped someone. The more you volunteer the happier you become.

So if you aren’t already convinced to volunteer to help others, how about doing it to help yourself?

Volunteer Link are recruiting for their next Volunteers Induction training to be held on 18th April. Send an email to volunteering@volunteerlink.org.uk if you want to join us and you could be on your way to becoming happier and healthier.

 

Managing Time

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In our busy 21st century lives I have heard it said that above all things, even money, time is our most precious commodity. We never seem to have enough of it. We talk about ‘buying time’ and ‘saving time’ but can we really do either of these things? It seems to me that the key is about using our time well.

We all have demands on our time that have to come first, such as earning money and taking care of home, family and self. Then there might be care of extended family, perhaps elderly parents. What next? These days, especially in the city, we have more choices of how to spend our spare time than ever before – we may have any number of hobbies to pursue, exhibitions to see, friends to meet, travel, sport and exercise and more gentle activities such as reading and crafts.

Why should we spend time volunteering to visit an isolated person with all the other choices that we have? Perhaps it is because doing this will impact positively on another person who really needs it as well as ourselves. Sure, we can have a great outing to the latest exhibition or show in the city and feel good about this, but by spending our time visiting a housebound and isolated person there is also a positive impact on someone else who has a lot less social contact and choices than we do. So there are two people who are happy at the end of the day and by proactively planning each week perhaps we can even ‘make a little more time’ to fit in all those other things we want to do.

How can you make the very best of your time for your own sake as well as for the benefit of another?

 

Two Men and a Dog

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This month we hear from David, who has recently started volunteering with us:-

I had been volunteering for 4 years with the Dogs Trust at their north London rehoming centre, which involved a few hours at the weekend walking dogs.  Because of changes in the volunteer set up at the Dogs Trust I was not able to continue there and I wanted to find another type of volunteering. I wanted something which was easy to travel to, did not take up too many hours per week, which I could do in the early evenings (as I cannot commit during the day because of my job) and a cause that I felt strongly about. After a little searching I found The Volunteer Link Scheme which seemed to tick all these boxes.

It’s hard to find out about how a charity operates if you’re “on the outside”, and where to volunteer is an important decision when you are giving up free time and you want it to be right. Having said that, the organisation and set up of the Volunteer Link Scheme was reassuring from my first contact.

I went in for an initial chat at their office with Bridget which was professional and friendly and I passed the initial interview! And so on to the next step, the training which consisted of a half day session on a Saturday – I was glad they did a weekend session as otherwise I would have needed to take time off work. My initial thought was that a half day session seemed a little on the long side for training, but actually there is a lot of important and interesting material to cover and so the time went quickly.

Various key topic areas were covered and a consistent focus is the difference between being a friend and a befriender. Understanding the differences, and their implications is vital in order to make a success of the befriender volunteering.  

Around this time the Christmas volunteer meet up took place and I got the chance to meet dozens of other volunteers. There are more of these events planned for 2018.

The final stage is that the Befriending Coordinators carefully consider your profile and that of the clients and make an informed match between the two.

Funnily enough, the gentleman that I visit has a dog which was one of the reasons that made the match a good one for us. I visit him every two weeks. It does take a little while to hit it off, as you would expect. We’re now both well into the swing of our visits and it’s good to see him and his dog. We have our “visit routine” and the visits are enjoyable for both of us.

I’d thoroughly recommend the Volunteer Link Scheme. It’s a great cause and the team is really well organised. I guess it comes as no surprise to any Londoner reading this post that there is an ongoing demand for new volunteers because we have new clients all the time in need of befrienders. So go for it and reach out and get in touch.

 

New Year New Plans

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December can be a time for looking back over the past year and ahead to the new one. What things have we achieved? What plans have come to fruition? What has not gone so well? What are our hopes and dreams  for the year ahead? What is the best use of our valuable time?  How can we help others? These might be some of the questions that we ask ourselves.

So, as part of our planning for the new year we might get to thinking – how can I make a positive impact on the life of  someone who really needs it? Although we may feel at times that the world is full of problems and we are powerless to help, as individuals we can make a positive difference to the lives of others.

If you want to help someone, therefore, why not consider becoming a volunteer with us? Volunteer Link matches volunteer befrienders  with lonely,  isolated and housebound people who are in need of regular companionship, and they visit on a weekly basis, giving the person much needed time and attention. Our volunteers say they find it thoroughly rewarding and gain a lot from getting to know someone who has usually had an interesting life. Often they say that the stories they hear of times gone by are endlessly entertaining. In addition, they have the satisfying feeling that they are helping someone in their local community.

More and more people are living isolated and lonely lives and a regular visitor each week can make the world of difference to them.

Are you considering your priorities for 2018? If so, how about dedicating just a couple of hours a week to make the life of an isolated person happier and more positive. Contact the Volunteer Coordinator at bridget@volunteerlink.org.uk or ring us on 020-9434-3635.  We’d love to hear from you.

 

A Time for Giving

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As December approaches we are constantly reminded that the ‘Season of Goodwill’ is nearly upon us. Advertisers and retailers let us know, in a myriad of different ways, the items that they have for sale and we are frequently asked to consider what gifts we might give to whom. It is very much ‘the season for giving’.

Also, at this time everyone seems to be extra busy buying cards and gifts, attending festivities and enjoying themselves and time is more stretched than ever.  As many people become busier and busier, however, the loneliness of older and isolated housebound people can be felt even more acutely. They probably don’t have as many presents to buy, parties to attend, or people to have a seasonal catch up with. People whom they do see may have less time for them.

Surely then, this is the perfect time of year to make the most precious gift of all – committing to spending time with someone who needs it. By going to someone’s house and spending an hour and a half to two hours with them every week, you are really valuing them and making a positive difference to their life.  It doesn’t cost anything monetary but becoming a volunteer befriender is to give one of the greatest gifts – the gift of time to someone who needs it. Is this something that you would like to do?

The festive season and its gifts are soon past and forgotten but being a regular Volunteer Befriender continues throughout the year.

Volunteer Link are recruiting volunteers and have a Volunteers Induction training day in January. If you would like to give the gift of your time to someone in need contact Bridget at Volunteer Link on bridget@volunteerlink.org.uk

Variety is the Spice of Life

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I am often asked what kind of person makes a good volunteer for Volunteer Link and that’s an interesting question. The qualities and attributes that spring to mind are – a good listener, someone who is non-judgmental and empathic and has the time for the regular commitment of befriending volunteering. Certainly no formal qualifications are required. We do a volunteer induction training which equips new volunteers to undertake their role.

What else? Upon reflection I think it’s hard to answer this because we actually want a variety of people as volunteers, a diverse group, with different ethnicities, of different ages and social classes with various hobbies, interests and qualities. This is because our client group are a diverse group themselves. Where possible we like to match volunteers with clients whom they have things in common with and we can only do this if we have a diverse group of volunteers to start with, rather than volunteers who are all similar to each other.  Variety is the spice of life after all.

Ealing is a diverse borough, home to people from a wide range of ethnicities, age groups, social classes etc. and of course people have all sorts of different personalities and passions.

So in answer to the question – what kind of person makes a good volunteer? –  I believe the answer is that as long as someone has  the qualities of being a good listener, nonjudgmental, empathic and can make the time for volunteering – almost anyone. Do you fit these criteria and would you like to volunteer? We are recruiting for our new volunteer Induction training to be held on 17th October so would love to hear from you. Email Bridget at bridget@volunteerlink.org.uk or ring on 020-8434-3635.

 

Loneliness Adversely Affects Mental Health

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There have been a number of articles in the media recently about older people and loneliness. Age UK says that 1.2 million older people are chronically lonely and that this has an adverse impact on mental health, and the challenge will increase as our population ages. Caroline Abrahams, Age UK charity director says: “Loneliness can have an impact on older people’s health and wellbeing. And this is particularly true when it comes to mental health, with older people’s depression often brought on by, or exacerbated by loneliness.”

The spotlight on older people initiative – a group of nine older people’s organisations led by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness – says that more than half the users of over-50s social networking site Gransnet, who say they are lonely, have never discussed loneliness with anyone.

Added to this, according to Age UK in the next 20 years, England’s over-85 population is set to rise from nearly 1.3 million people to just under 2.8 million.

A weekly phone call or visit from a volunteer are among the solutions to help ease the loneliness epidemic according to campaigners and this is where Volunteer Link can play a vital role.  

Volunteer Link operates and supports people who live in the the London borough of Ealing.

Volunteers are linked with lonely and isolated clients and they visit on a regular basis to provide  companionship and support. The Scheme provides an excellent way to break the loneliness cycle that so many older people experience.  

Our own research backs up more formal studies. The Volunteer Link 2016 Client Survey showed that after receiving regular visits from one of our volunteers 79% said that they felt less lonely and 58% reported feeling happier. One of our clients described the difference before and after being visited by a volunteer as ‘I was so down, lonely and isolated, (I now) feel less depressed’.

The findings of recent studies and the fact that  the numbers of older people are steadily increasing means that Volunteer Link volunteers are needed more than ever. By giving just a couple of hours of their time each week a volunteer can make a huge positive difference to the life of a lonely older person, increasing their chances of avoiding depression and leading a happier life.

Summer: A time to rethink priorities

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Holidays, sunny weather, quality time spent with family and friends, barbecues and picnics, days that seem to go on forever – this is the stuff that Summer is made of and some of the things that we love about this time of year. It can be a great opportunity to perhaps take things a bit more easy,   recharge our batteries and take a holiday.  Holidays can be a time to dream and plan for the future, to think through our priorities and re-establish what’s important to us, what our values are and how we, consequently, spend our time.

We have more choices of how to utilise our spare time than ever before, yet, when we think hard about it, most of us  still feel it’s important  to dedicate some  time and energy to helping others, to ‘give back’ and support those in society who are less fortunate than ourselves.

If you can identify with this, perhaps you would consider volunteering, a great and practical way to proactively support others in your community. Volunteer Link is a befriending service  in Ealing whereby trained volunteers are individually linked to isolated and vulnerable people  in their local community to provide friendship and support on a regular basis . Our volunteers give up just a couple of hours a week to volunteer, yet make a significant positive impact on the lives of those they support. Clients say that their visits greatly enhance the quality of their lives and volunteers say that it’s very satisfying to know the positive difference they are making.

We are planning to do two one day training courses for new volunteers during the day on 16th August and 7th September. If you would like to train to be a volunteer with us and are free on one of these days please contact us at Volunteer Link by emailing Bridget Morris on bridget@volunteerlink.org.uk or ringing on 020-8434-3635. It would be great to have you onboard and we hope you enjoy the rest of the Summer.

Volunteers Week is Coming!

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Believe it or not 22 million people volunteer in their local communities nationally which is quite amazing when you think about it. Volunteers Week (1st – 7th June) is fast approaching and is a great opportunity for organisations, such as ours who work with volunteers, to celebrate and reward their current volunteers as well as an ideal time to recruit new ones. At Volunteer Link we embrace this opportunity and will be taking our volunteers out for a celebratory Volunteers Week meal.

We are also holding 3 Volunteer Recruitment stalls at venues around the borough:-

1st June – at Northolt Leisure Centre, see here, 6th June at Acton Leisure Centre, see here and 8th June at central library, see here. Northolt and Acton are areas where we have less volunteers so we hope to recruit more from the local community. The stall in central Ealing will be in the library and is in conjunction with Ealing Volunteer Centre and other local voluntary organisations, so it should draw people in. We will be there at 10 am to 4 pm each day. If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering with us, therefore, this is the perfect opportunity to meet us for an informal chat with no obligation. Or please drop in just to say ‘hello’, we would be delighted to see you.

Our next Volunteers Training is being held on 27th June at North Hanwell Baptist Church where we have the capacity for a large training group. If you would like to support an isolated, vulnerable person in your local community, therefore, there is no better time to sign up with us. Please email Bridget at bridget@volunteerlink.org.uk or ring on 020-8434-3635. We hope to hear from you soon.