Call to do your bit and volunteer for Norfolk in 2017

Setting up of the Christmas Tree Festival at the Parish Church in Fakenham. Pictured is Sharon Moore

Setting up of the Christmas Tree Festival at the Parish Church in Fakenham. Pictured is Sharon Moore. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Volunteering can boost your own wellbeing as well as improving the lives of others and this year the EDP and Voluntary Norfolk are encouraging as many people to do their bit for their community. SOPHIE WYLLIE finds out why volunteering is so beneficial.

Phil and Trish Abbott

Phil and Trish Abbott - Credit: Archant

From helping youngsters achieve their potential in established groups including the Brownies to the Army Cadet Force, to organising vibrant town events and Open Christmas lunches, Norfolk has a lot of opportunities for volunteers.

The Make a Difference in 2017 campaign, launched by Voluntary Norfolk and supported by the EDP, wants more people to volunteer across the county.

Suzanne Nuri, 53, from Wymondham Town Team, is one of those who has found volunteering a benefit. She said: 'You get a lifetime of enjoyment. The fact you are doing something for people creates a lovely feeling. You cannot buy that feeling. It makes life more enriching.'

Dr Ian Newey, lead clinical psychologist for Huntercombe Hospital in Buxton, said a good way to help people suffering with low moods was to get them active.

He said: 'Do something that is important to you. It is about getting out of your mind and into the world. Meaningful activities can be beneficial for everyone.

'If people think 'I am useless' a good way to challenge that is to be useful and notice that.'

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The Make a Difference in 2017 campaign comes amid news that so-called baby boomers, people aged 50-70, have the opportunity to be more active than ever before.

In her annual report to the government on the state of the public's health, chief medical officer for England Prof Dame Sally Davies reported people were living longer than ever.

From left, Penny Hubble, Nicola Maunders, Suzanne Nuri, Leah Corley and Erica Simpson from Wymondham

From left, Penny Hubble, Nicola Maunders, Suzanne Nuri, Leah Corley and Erica Simpson from Wymondham Town Team launch the poster for the first ever Wymondham Vintage Day. Picture: ASHLEY PERKS - Credit: Archant

She said: 'Staying in work, volunteering or joining a community group can make sure people stay physically and mentally active for longer. The health benefits of this cannot be overestimated.'

The benefits of volunteering on a person's wellbeing are also on trial at a Norwich medical practice.

Professionals at Tuckswood Surgery, off Hall Road, are prescribing volunteering and befriending opportunities to tackle issues including loneliness, unhealthy lifestyles and housing problems.

It is part of a pilot testing how so-called social prescriptions can help patients who visit their GP but may not need medical help.

Dr Tesh Patel, of Tuckswood Surgery, said: 'There is growing evidence that social prescribing is effective. Evidence from similar pilots in the UK suggests it can lead to real changes to people's lives.'

Tuckswood has linked up with Age UK Norwich and Community Action Norwich to help patients access those services.

Susan Ringwood, chief executive of Age UK Norwich, said: 'We know that being worried about your housing situation, or feeling isolated can have a direct effect on your health.

'Helping people to overcome these worries or to improve their sense of wellbeing will help prevent serious health issues from developing.'

Voluntary Norfolk, in partnership with other bodies, runs seven volunteering projects across the county, including befriending, patient transport and digital inclusion schemes, as well as other opportunities from more than 300 charities, voluntary bodies and social enterprises.


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Cystic Fibrosis fundraiser

Sharon Moore from Great Ryburgh has been a volunteer fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis since 2000 and on November 21 last year she hit her target of £50,000.

She started to fundraise when her cousin, who suffers from CF, had just celebrated her 18th birthday. After watching all the treatment and medication her cousin was going through she wanted to make a difference and stop this happening to others so she set a target of raising £1,000 for CF research.

She hit her first target in just six months, and carried on.

Over the past 16 years she has organised sponsored walks, fashion shows, bingo, dances, quiz sheets, tombolas, had a Christmas tree at Fakenham's tree festival and many more. She has now set a target of £75,000 by 2030.

Miss Moore is also a secretary and treasurer of the Great Ryburgh Playing Field and a member of the Litcham Fete Committee.

She does all this extra voluntary work on top of her full time job at Larking Gowen in Fakenham.

She said 'I like to help people and I am able to. There are a lot of people less fortunate than me and while I am able to help I will continue doing so.'

Wymondham Town Team used for friendship and skills

Making new friends, boosting skills and getting a priceless sense of enjoyment are just some of the benefits volunteering brings, according to a dedicated town team member.

Suzanne Nuri, 53, from Silfield near Wymondham, has been part of the Wymondham Town Team for four years after moving to Norfolk from Chingford in London.

Ms Nuri, a graphic designer who has done voluntary work for more than 20 years, said: 'I was used to volunteering in my local community where I used to live and when I moved to Wymondham I didn't know many people. I found volunteering was a good way to meet people.

'Being part of something bigger than yourself is great. I have learnt a lot of skills too.'

The town team organises events to promote the community including the Wymondham Vintage Day and carnival.

It gets money from South Norfolk Council.

She added: 'Volunteering is a terrific thing to do. If you spare the time you get a sense of community. You get a lifetime of enjoyment. The fact you are doing something for people creates a lovely feeling. You cannot buy that feeling. It makes life more enriching.'

Open Christmas supporters

Reedham husband and wife Phil and Trish Abbott have taken great pleasure from their volunteering work.

Mrs Abbott, 62, founded the Random Gifts from Around the World Facebook page which sees a group of secret Santas placing Christmas gifts in public places for lucky passers-by to find.

Now the group includes 1,370 members on Facebook from all over the world, including the USA, Australia and Brazil.

Mrs Abbott said: 'It is all about giving without an expectation of getting anything back – other than a good feeling from doing something kind.'

Most recently she and her husband helped transport people attending Great Yarmouth's Open Christmas event which provides food, entertainment and gifts for 300 people at the town's seafront Marina Centre.

Mr Abbott is a bus driver at Centre 81, which donated the bus and fuel for the day as its contribution to the event.

He started as a volunteer driver at Centre 81 before joining the charity's community transport driver team. He said: 'We first took part in the Open Christmas event in 2015 and we really enjoyed it and got a big thrill from helping people.

'It just feels good to give something back. But really it is the organisers of the Open event who do such a tremendous job to get it all up and running and make sure that people come forward with food and transport to make it all possible.'

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