The Joy of Christmas Shopping

It’s that time of year again, when, for most of us, love it or hate it, Christmas shopping beckons with all those things we need to buy to ensure we and our loved ones have a perfect Christmas. It can feel like a real chore. Especially when the weather is cold, dark and wet and perhaps we are feeling tired and have low energy as the year draws to a close.

But imagine how it would be if you couldn’t get out to the shops to get the things that you need, and you didn’t have a clue how to do online shopping and you didn’t have a computer or internet connection anyway. On top of that you keep hearing all the time – on the tv, the radio, in the newspapers about Christmas, what other people are doing and the preparations they are making. Perhaps you haven’t even got anyone to buy a present for anyway and you are going to be spending Christmas day quite alone, like most of your other days.  On top of that you can’t do very much except watch tv which is telling you constantly about the big event that you will be missing out on.

This is how life is for many of our lonely and isolated clients, and together with cold and dark days it can mean that this time of year is even more difficult than usual.

If you think about it then, your extra shopping for Christmas is not such a big deal. And aren’t you lucky being able to go out and about, as and when you please, without giving it a second thought? How about making a positive difference to the life of someone who doesn’t have this luxury by volunteering with Volunteer Link? You would be spending up to two hours per week with someone who is lonely and isolated and has few visitors. Our volunteers can be lifelines for our clients.


Our next Volunteers Induction training is on Wednesday 16th January, 9.30 am to 3 pm at a venue in Hanwell. Please contact the Volunteer Coordinator on volunteering@volunteerlink.org.uk for more details.

Volunteering can be Personal Development

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One of the ways in which Volunteer Link promotes its volunteering opportunities is as a form of personal development, and this month I have taken some time to look at what exactly we mean by this well used term. When I google the words ‘personal development’ Wikipedia comes up with the following:-

Personal development covers activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance the quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations.

Wow, personal development sounds pretty good. Wouldn’t we all want these things? Can volunteering with Volunteer Link really be described as personal development though? Let’s take a closer look.

Does befriending volunteering improve our awareness and identity? I think so. We are certainly going to have a lot more awareness of what the issues are for lonely and isolated people when we start to spend time with them. It can also improve our identity, because as we get to know another person we become more connected with our own identity.

Develop talents and potential –  volunteers are developing their talent of befriending all the time and thus expanding their potential.

Building human capital, our volunteers are certainly doing that as they voluntarily support and give to another, and facilitate employability – it is well documented that volunteering experience can be as relevant as work experience in the eyes of employers.

Finally, enhance the quality of life. It is known that giving to others is one of the things that gives us the greatest happiness and in giving to others through volunteering, volunteers have the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping others, hence enhancing the quality of their own lives at the same time.  

Finally, contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations, this might sound lofty and out of reach but our lives tend to be made up of many small actions and experiences that combine to make the whole. What kind of life do we ultimately want to lead? If it’s one where serving others has a place, then this can contribute to realizing our dreams and what we aspire to be.

I think it’s true to say, therefore, that volunteering can be a form of personal growth. So if you want some of the things that go with this – improvement of awareness and identity, to build human capital and improve your employability, enhance your quality of life, build talent and potential and realise your dreams and aspirations, hence a personal growth opportunity – please consider volunteer befriending with Volunteer Link.

Our next Volunteers Induction training courses will take place on Wednesday 16th January 2019. Email volunteering@volunteerlink.org.uk for more information.

Why spend time Volunteering with all the other things there are to do?

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These days we have more choice than ever about how we spend our leisure time. There seem to be many more leisure activities available than there were a generation ago. For example the internet now tells us about social events happening near where we live and there are so many more pastimes than there used to be. As I google what I could do in London this evening, Enigma quests and flight simulator experience are just two of the suggestions!  Also, short breaks travelling abroad are easier and cheaper than they used to be. Not to mention the varied hobbies that people have these days, everything from tracking your family ancestry to high risk pursuits such as skydiving.

Yet our 92 volunteers are living proof that they, at least, still find time to fit a couple of hours of volunteering into their lives each week despite the temptation of other activities. Maybe this is because through their volunteering with Volunteer Link they are connecting with another person directly and they can see first hand that they are making a huge positive difference to the life of that person. Other activities just don’t seem so satisfying. Of course our volunteers fit other activities in as well but they ensure that they make time for their volunteering.

These are exciting times for Volunteer Link as we have recently started a new project called Linked Minds which provides befrienders for people who have mental health problems. We also have a project to support people who have early and mid dementia. So including our regular Volunteer Befriender role, we now have 3 volunteer roles for you to choose from.If you would like to prioritise giving your time to someone who is lonely or isolated please email me at volunteering@volunteerlink.org.uk and it would be great to have you on board. We have new Volunteer Induction training courses coming up in November. Hope to see you there!

The Happiness Effect of Volunteering

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Our volunteers often say how much they enjoy their volunteering and that they get a lot from their weekly visits, but did you know that it’s official that people who volunteer are happier than those who don’t?

Many studies have demonstrated that volunteering kindles happiness. When researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness in a large group of American adults, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were, according to a study in Social Science and Medicine. Compared with people who never volunteered, the odds of being “very happy” rose 7% among those who volunteer monthly and 12% for people who volunteer every two to four weeks.

Having good and positive relationships is another key source of happiness for most people and one of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to commit to a shared activity together. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area. It strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighbourhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities.

Volunteering can also boost your social skills which can help you to interact more effectively with others, again potentially increasing your happiness. While some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests. Once you have momentum, it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts.

It’s official, therefore, people who volunteer are happier than those that don’t.

We are taking a break from volunteer induction training over the Summer but have training courses coming up in September and October. Email us now if you would like to find out more at volunteering@volunteerlink.org.uk. It’s time to get happy!

 

Volunteers Week Celebrations

 

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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

 

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