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.

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.