Give the gift of time and volunteer in Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 12:32 11 June 2018 | UPDATED: 12:32 11 June 2018
Do you have a spare hour a week and would like to help transform somebody's life? Then why not consider volunteering?
The benefits of volunteering in your community are far reaching – both for those helping and those being helped.
From mental health befriending and patient transport services to community health volunteering and even helping people learn essential skills to access digital services – there are so many ways to help.
With national Volunteers’ Week in June, it is hoped even more people will be encouraged to get involved with Voluntary Norfolk’s many projects and schemes. One key area is its North Norfolk and South Norfolk Health Volunteer Service which aims to reduce unplanned emergency hospital admissions, to support early discharge from hospital, reduce the need for permanent residential care and to work with people who have long term health conditions which put them at risk of social isolation, loss of independence and increasing physical or mental illness as a result.
“Volunteers might visit someone once a week or once a fortnight, but those few hours make an extraordinary difference and really improves people’s lives and overall health,” says Karl Hills, senior co-ordinator for the South Norfolk Health Volunteer Service, which currently has 281 volunteers and more than 400 clients.
“A volunteer might take someone out for a walk to boost their physical health and confidence, or take them shopping or for some lunch. They could also help signpost them to different services and help them access them. Volunteers can also notice if someone isn’t themselves and those little things which go unnoticed until it’s too late. They might not be eating well, or as on top of the house as usual or could even notice hazards within the home that need attention to prevent falls or injuries.
“That early intervention is key to making sure a client is okay and reduces the chance of a hospital admission,” says Karl.
Volunteers get training before they start and the needs of each client are carefully assessed before a match is made.
“A lot of our volunteers tend to be people who have retired but we are always looking for younger people. Many get involved because they want to make a difference to their communities, meet new people or even explore a new career direction. We do our best to make it as easy as possible for people to give up a little bit of their time.”
‘It’s a two-way street’
Daphne Medcraft and Richard Fry have only known each other a few months, but it feels as though they are life-long friends.
Daphne was introduced to Richard following his application to Voluntary Norfolk’s North Norfolk Health Volunteer Service. Having lost his own grandparents, to whom he was very close, he applied to volunteer with the service as he wanted to have that connection with an older person again and give something back, as well as addressing his work/life balance.
Daphne was referred to the service by her community physiotherapist as she was looking for support to go out for short walks to aid the healing of a leg condition.
Living close to the beach, she used to enjoy taking walks along the water’s edge but because it was a busy road she felt she needed support as she lives alone.
Daphne says she and Richard have become “great pals”. He began visiting on a weekly basis. Richard took Daphne out for lunch and has also cooked for them both. They are even planning a trip to Southwold.
During each visit there is a mutual respect and a great deal of chatting about all sorts of topics. Richard says: “The visits give me a different dimension to my working week and it’s nice to give something back.”
Daphne is in no doubt as to the difference Richard’s visits have made in her life. “He’s lovely – I don’t know what I’d do without him. And even when he’s not here, it’s a great comfort to think about what we’ve said and done, and to know that he’s not far away and he cares about me. It makes me feel a lot less lonely even when I’m on my own”.
“Volunteering is always a two-way street”, says Natalie Hickman, a Voluntary Norfolk coordinator. “Daphne and Richard are a great example of how a volunteer not only enhances the life of the person they’ve visiting, but can make a big difference to their own life too. There is a lot of loneliness across Norfolk and beyond, but it doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to transform the situation – for both the volunteer and the person they visit.”
If you are 18 or over, enjoy meeting and spending time with other people, and can spare an hour or so a week to change someone’s life, register your interest at voluntarynorfolk.org.uk