We’re only a couple of months into our latest volunteers programme, but already it’s clear to see that it’s good for everyone involved. Each of the volunteer befrienders is matched with a client (someone who needs that bit of extra support) and, as you’ll see from the examples below, they’re getting the help they need.
Also, though, the volunteers themselves are benefiting – as, not only does volunteering make you feel good, it’s now proven to improve your health! A recently-published study has found that people who volunteer enjoy healthier hearts. That’s right – doing good is good for you!
Making a difference – the story so far…
So how does the volunteers programme work?
Clients are referred from other departments within Gateway – POWs, Health Trainers and Lighten Up – and via other routes, like partner organisations or GPs. Then Chelsea Gaffey, the administrator for EAST (Employment Access, Skills and Training), carefully matches volunteers with clients based on practical considerations like where they live and their availability, as well as interests and relevant experience.
“Some people are volunteering as part of their university course and using it as their placement, so if they have other skills to offer we try to take these into account too,” says Chelsea. “Some clients have specific needs, so we look for volunteers that might have dealt with similar issues previously.”
“We’re really happy with how it’s going so far,” Chelsea continues. “Our first group of volunteers are settling in really well – and we’re preparing to interview the next batch in the coming week.”
Practical and emotional support
Eleven volunteers already have at least one client of their own and are supporting them in all sorts of ways.
Lorraine has been attending slimming classes with a client who didn’t feel confident going on her own. As well as providing some moral support she’s also helped her to start managing her finances a bit better. Just having someone who’s available to help with a little practical and emotional support can be a big boost.
Tareena helped her client to find alternative housing, as the conditions he was living in were very poor and he was being threatened by his neighbours. Together, they’ve visited Shelter, who found him a new place to live. Now he’s very happy – his new accommodation is warm and clean and he’s able to cook his own meals. This client has many health issues and, without support from people like Tareena, he might not have been able to set the wheels in motion to get the support he needed.
One of our partners is the Thomas Pocklington Trust, who specialises in providing housing and support for people with sight loss. Social isolation and lack of interaction can be major problems for people with sight loss, so our befrienders have again been able to help. Volunteers Lorraine, Hannah, and Stephenhave all supported people with visual impairment over the last few weeks. The help they’ve been able to give has been varied; accompanying their clients to the shops or to medical appointments, going for walks and even helping with IT problems.
There are still a few places available, so if you’re thinking that you’d like to give this type of volunteering a try, why not get in touch?
Gateway’s volunteers programme is funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
From Eleanor McGee. ‘Brill as usual. Could you arrange for some POWs fliers to go to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, to part of the Dietetics dept, and they have some long-term clients who have many social issues (as well as an inherited disease affecting what they can eat) and often live in poverty, and they see them through pregnancy. Not large numbers but they immediately saw the relevance of POWs.’
I am currently studying health and social care level 3 and as part of my course is to get some work experience. I am very interested in the health sector as a whole and have an extreme passion to make a difference. The field I am most interested in is maternity but I would like to stress I am also very keen to learn from all aspects of health and social care to help me develop further in my career after I have completed my course successfully. If you have any volunteer or paid health job roles I would be very interested. Look forward to hearing back from you very soon. Miranda Soldiew