Campaign calls for people to kick off 2017 by volunteering

Doris, with her digital inclusion volunteer Steve. Picture: Voluntary Norfolk

Doris, with her digital inclusion volunteer Steve. Picture: Voluntary Norfolk - Credit: Archant

A new year drive hopes to inspire people to kick off their 2017 by sharing their time with those in need and signing up to volunteer.

Ian, with his digital inclusion volunteer Jo. Picture: Voluntary Norfolk

Ian, with his digital inclusion volunteer Jo. Picture: Voluntary Norfolk - Credit: Archant

Rather than a new gym membership or a vow to save money, Voluntary Norfolk's campaign hopes to encourage people to add volunteering to their new year's resolutions list.

They say that giving something back is an opportunity to enjoy new experiences, make friends, learn skills – and, as a survey shows, even improve your health. In a study of 600 volunteers, 47pc said it had improved their physical health and fitness, 25pc said it had helped them lose wight and 15pc said it had even made them eat less chocolate.

Andrew Morter, head of volunteering, said: 'Lots of resolutions are made that are not sustainable, however volunteering is something that can work around your time commitments, interests and skills and there is so much to choose from.

'It is also something that can really help someone and your local community. The most valuable gift you could give this Christmas is your time.'

The charity will hold a string of drop-in sessions over the next few weeks, giving those interested a chance to chat to volunteers and project coordinators.

Michelle Turner, volunteer coordinator, said they would be a source of information on what opportunities are out there and how best to get involved.

Malcolm Thurston, who volunteers as a community befriender with the Norfolk Community Health and Car

Malcolm Thurston, who volunteers as a community befriender with the Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCHC). Picture: NCHC - Credit: Archant

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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 enterprise.

Emily Balsdon, who coordinates the digital inclusion scheme with Norwich City Council, said: 'The online world gives you access to a huge amount of activities and services, and there's never been a better time for people in Norwich to get connected.

'Whether it's getting to grips with devices such as smartphones and tablets, being able to download forms and shop online, or even getting access to a computer, we want to make sure that all residents have the chance to overcome any barriers that stand between them and the internet.'

For more information and to see the roles available, visit scheme offers much-needed company

A community befriending scheme hopes to give lonely people in the county much-needed company.

Researchers say loneliness can be as detrimental to health as obesity or smoking, with links established between feeling alone and heart disease.

Voluntary Norfolk chief executive Alan Hopley.

Voluntary Norfolk chief executive Alan Hopley. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

The Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCHC) drive, with Voluntary Norfolk, is encouraging people to give up an hour or two a week of their time.

One volunteer is Malcolm Thurston, who visits an elderly woman, Molly, once a week.

He said: 'With a lot of older people, all they want is for someone to sit down and talk with them. I'm not saying it's easy because it's not, in fact it can be really tough. Molly has Alzhiemer's, she's partially blind and going deaf. The care home Molly is in is great, she's well looked after, but she's at the stage of not remembering, so she can feel confused, lonely and sometimes just bored.

'Having someone to talk to helps with all of that.'

He added: 'It allows perspective too, I see her position and I wouldn't want to swap places, I'm fortunate enough to be able to help, all I want to do is give something back.'

Samuel Scott, volunteer coordinator for NCHC, said the role did not involve medical or personal care, just having a chat and making a cup of tea. It takes a couple of hours a week and volunteers are matched with someone local.

For information, call 01603 272337.

Help to access important appointments

Voluntary Norfolk has joined forces with ERS Medical to offer a non-emergency transport scheme for Norfolk patients.

Their volunteer drivers see up to 100 patients a day, taking them from home to hospital or doctor appointments in East Anglia and further afield.

They include Gill, who started volunteering earlier this year and said: 'As well as the driving, helping people at what is often a stressful time for them is very rewarding and I learn more about the area every week.

'For me, volunteering has combined my enjoyment of driving with meeting a great variety of people, providing a useful service and also greatly improving my knowledge of local routes. It's also great fun.'

He said there was always support on hand if any problems arose.

Drivers would need their own four-door car and should be able to dedicate a minimum of one day a week. Training will be given and expenses reimbursed.

For information, call Karen Downer on 01603 883860.

When can you find out more?

Monday, January 9: 2pm to 4pm, St Williams Way Library on William Loke, Norwich

Tuesday, January 10: 10.30am to 12.30pm, West Earlham Library, Norwich and 2pm to 5pm, Mile Cross Library on Aylsham Road, Norwich

Wednesday, January 11: 10.30am to 12pm, King's Lynn Library on London Road

Friday, January 13: 10am to 12.30pm, Tuckswood Library on Robin Hood Road, Norwich

Monday, January 16: 2pm to 4pm, Costessey Library on Breckland Road, Norwich

Tuesday, January 17: 2pm to 4pm, Earlham Library on Colman Road, Norwich

Wednesday, January 18: 10am to 12pm, Riversdale on Tanner Street, Thetford and 10.30am to 12.30pm, Plumstead Road Library, Norwich

Thursday, January 19: 2pm to 4pm, Gaywood Library on River Lane

Monday, January 23: 10.30am to 12.30pm, Hunstanton Library on Westgate and 2pm to 4pm, Dersingham Library on Orchard Close

Wednesday, January 25: 11am to 3pm, The Hive bookshop on London Street Norwich

Friday, January 27: 10am to 2pm at Downham Market Library on Priory Road

Saturday, January 28: 10am to 1pm at Merchants' Place on Church Street, Cromer

Monday, February 6: 10am to 12pm, North Walsham Library on New Road

• We'll be supporting Voluntary Norfolk's drive with our Make a Difference in 2017 campaign, where we will be highlighting the incredible voluntary work ongoing in the region. If your life has been changed by volunteering, or if you are a new volunteer, get in touch at