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.

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