International Volunteers Day: Change someone’s life this Christmas

Voluntary Norfolk community volunteer coordinator Hannah Groom hopes more people will sign up to volunteer in the run-up to Christmas. 
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY Voluntary Norfolk community volunteer coordinator Hannah Groom hopes more people will sign up to volunteer in the run-up to Christmas. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Thursday, December 5, 2013
11:42 AM

Make today the day you change someone else’s life.

That’s the message from charity bosses, who are urging people to use International Volunteering Day as the launchpad to make sure there is nobody lonely this Christmas.

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A Friend in Need

A Friend in Need is a campaign run by the Norwich Evening News and Voluntary Norfolk to recruit volunteer befrienders across the city.

It aims to reduce loneliness and isolation by pairing vulnerable people with volunteers, and was inspired by the tragic case of a Lakenham man who lay dead at home for months before being discovered.

Not all clients are at risk, but all benefit from being visited once a week by a volunteeer – and so do the befrienders who take part.

A Friend in Need has won high-profile backing from former Norfolk coroner William Armstrong, and its impact on the city was recognised when it was named Community Campaign of the Year at the EDF Energy East of England Media Awards in February.

To find out more, telephone Voluntary Norfolk on 01603 614474.

Because while the festive season is filled with happiness for many, the long and cold nights can mean misery for those with no one around them.

That’s why Voluntary Norfolk managers and the Norwich Evening News are encouraging people to sign up as volunteer befrienders today, through our Friend in Need campaign, and make a difference to someone this Christmas.

There are also one-off opportunities for people who can only spare a day or a few hours but still want to give a Christmas gift that can’t be bought in a shop.

Andrew Morter, volunteering manager, said: “With Christmas looming and many people preparing to celebrate, social isolation can become amplified.

“For people who have nobody it can be a lonely time, and we see an increase in hospital admissions and mental health issues at this time of year.

“The benefits our volunteers bring is to simply give those people regular contact with someone. Just an hour or so of your time can make someone else’s life that much better.”

The Voluntary Norfolk appeal comes on the back of an Age UK survey, which revealed a quarter of older people dread Christmas because of the memories it brings back, and a fifth were concerned at being left housebound by the shorter days and cold weather.

Opportunities are available with other organisations, from volunteering with the Salvation Army for a day to driving people to Christmas dinners.

“Demand for volunteers always outstrips supply at this time of year, so there are 101 different things you can still do, and not just on Christmas Day,” said Mr Morter.

“This is a difficult time of year for so many people. Their families may have moved away, so they could have happy memories creating an unhappy feeling.

That’s the hardest thing: not only are those people not around but you have no contact with other people to take your mind off it.”

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