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.

 

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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.

 

From a Volunteer’s Perspective

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Today we hear from Darren, one of our volunteers.

I’ve been with Volunteer Link for around four and a half years, which have been happy, but testing, at times.

I started volunteering as I felt it’s important to help others in the community. Time is one of the most precious commodities in my busy life and an organisation that only needed a couple of hours a week was one attraction of Volunteer Link. In my profession I make decisions that sometimes have an unfavourable impact on people’s lives, so helping others through Volunteer Link provides balance.

Through volunteering I have met the most amazing folk! Everybody has a novel inside them and by spending time with new friends I am discovering secrets and untold stories that have never previously been shared. I often find myself teaching clients the benefits of new technology and how, in so many different ways, these can open new windows onto the world. The senior generation are fascinated by ‘Google’ and the information it can retrieve; often this triggers faded or forgotten memories. Sometimes I find the reason why my new friend has arrived at Volunteer Link a challenge coupled with having to deal with family members who, for whatever reason, are not so charitable with their time.

I’m always battling against the clock to arrive at my visit on time and have been most fortunate that my clients are understanding and forgiving!

Through volunteering I have learnt to be more patient and not to prejudge others. As a society we should not give up and abandon older and isolated people as we fight against the growing pressures of daily life. Their personalities and love remain, it takes just a small strike to ignite and they can be given the opportunity to enjoy life again.

I have received invaluable support from the office, both in times when a dear friend passed away and mentoring chats (Jill is a STAR). I find the socials invaluable, they always throw up new stories and experiences which you can take forward and adopt.

Many thanks Darren, this is a great insight into your volunteering experience at Volunteer Link.

What Volunteers Bring that Paid Workers Can’t

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Photo by courtesy of NCVO London. See Copyright notice and Licence

As we begin to think ahead to Volunteers Week in June, when volunteers and all things volunteering are celebrated, I have been pondering on the value of volunteers. Some people argue that expecting people to work without pay is wrong and that everyone should be paid for the work that they do. This is a good argument and it concerns me that some volunteers are exploited in these days of austerity and cut backs.

Yet with befriending volunteering, if our volunteers were paid workers the relationship between client and befriender would fundamentally change and even if we could afford to pay our befrienders – who wants someone to be paid to be their friend? I don’t think our clients would appreciate this at all.

In fact I believe that what clients value most about their befriender’s visits are that the person is choosing to give their time for free, that is to spend time with them, and is not there simply to earn a living. This is in marked contrast to other people with whom they are likely to have contact, who will be professionals such as carers.

These days many of us have less leisure time than ever, and so the time that we do have is very precious. Added to this is the vast choice of ways we have in which to spend our free time, especially for those of us who live in London. To choose to spend some of this time with a lonely, isolated person, who is not a family member, is, therefore,  a real gift, and it is this that I believe  is most appreciated by our clients.

Volunteers offer something unique and priceless that paid workers can never replace, hence we must continually value and treasure them and acknowledging them in some way during Volunteers Week is a great place to start.

 

Volunteering is a Learning Experience

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Here at Volunteer Link we have had quite a bit of interest in volunteering recently and this has meant that we have already held one new volunteers training day, with another planned for the end of February.  When promoting our volunteering I am focusing on how people can benefit personally and it struck me that learning is a great outcome. I recently quoted to a local university volunteering department:-

Prospective volunteers are eligible for our initial one day volunteer training course which means they meet other volunteers and have the opportunity to learn in a supportive, friendly environment. They learn how to listen, build rapport and create positive relationships, as well as softer skills such as record keeping, boundaries and accountability.

In addition to learning from trainers volunteers also learn from each other. We are lucky enough to have very experienced and interesting people coming forward to volunteer and they are making positive contributions to their training groups.

Volunteers also continually learn as they volunteer, including about the person whom they are befriending and their life, their struggles and ups and downs as well as about carrying out their role in an appropriate and professional way. As volunteers discuss with us at the Volunteer Link office issues that have arisen for their clients they discover what solutions may or may not be available.

We learn throughout our lives one way or another and there is nothing like ‘learning by doing’. Everyone who volunteers is getting something out of it one way or another, and I believe that learning about other people’s lives as well as how to carry out a volunteer role effectively can be very beneficial.


Starting Volunteering is a great way to begin the New Year

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The festive season is over and we are now into 2017 with all the possibilities of a new year ahead. January can be a difficult month for many of us with the festivities over, short days and long dark nights, and the prospect of warmer weather still some way off.

It can also be a great time for new beginnings and adventures, however, and a great time to take on new challenges. Many of us make New Year resolutions to do something new, and perhaps to help someone else. What better time, therefore, to help an older person in your local community who is lonely and isolated? Volunteer Link is a small charity and we recruit and train local volunteers to befriend lonely and isolated older people within the borough of Ealing. We link volunteers with clients whom they have things in common with and deep friendships are often forged. Some clients enjoy crafts such as knitting or games such as chess and where possible we link them with volunteers who have similar interests.

All new volunteers undergo an initial one day training course with us, and there are further courses and development opportunities available. We also hold social events throughout the year where volunteers can meet each other.

Our current volunteers tend to enjoy their volunteering and are enthusiastic about it. One of our volunteers Robin, says of her volunteering ‘I’m a volunteer befriender, however I have gained an incredible friendship along with being gifted life lessons through a different lens’.

Volunteering can also be a development opportunity, enhancing caring, listening and rapport building skills.

Due to an increase in demand for our service we are currently recruiting volunteers and we will be holding a training course soon.

So if you live in the London borough of Ealing and are thinking about what you want to achieve in 2017 please consider helping a vulnerable person in your local community by becoming a befriender with Volunteer Link. This could be hugely rewarding for you and life changing for the person whom you befriend.

For an informal discussion about volunteering or if you wish to apply please contact me, Bridget Morris on 020-8434-3635 or email at bridget@volunteerlink.org.uk

Accreditation!

We are very proud to have been awarded the Approved Provider Standard from the NCVO Mentoring and Befriending once again! This lasts for 3 years and is the ‘gold standard’ for befriending organisations! We are very grateful to all our staff and volunteers who contribute to our success!
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Mayfield Primary PhotoWe are very grateful to the pupils and staff at Mayfield Primary School who raised £150 for us! Here is our Director, Rachel Hill, pictured with some of the pupils.