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Volunteers hop on board the virtual Chatty Bus

PUBLISHED: 13:40 13 May 2020 | UPDATED: 13:59 13 May 2020

Volunteers from the Chatty Bus scheme, which launched before lockdown, are now turning their hand to help people through Age UK's Telephone Befriending service   Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Volunteers from the Chatty Bus scheme, which launched before lockdown, are now turning their hand to help people through Age UK's Telephone Befriending service Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Archant

A busy bus certainly isn’t the place to be at the moment, but as well as being a means to get to work or the shops, it was somewhere lonely members of the community could have a chat. Now, Konectbus is bringing that back through its virtual Chatty Bus service.

Konectbus continues to offer an invaluable service for key workers to get to and from work, and it's also reaching out to help those who miss the sociable side of catching the bus   Picture: KonectbusKonectbus continues to offer an invaluable service for key workers to get to and from work, and it's also reaching out to help those who miss the sociable side of catching the bus Picture: Konectbus

During the current situation, bus passengers are advised to only use public transport if their journey is necessary and it is not possible to drive, walk or cycle. For Norwich Together Alliance member Konectbus, which operates a number of services across Norfolk, including Norwich Park & Ride, this raised the question of how it could continue to help tackle social isolation across the community.

The bus operator launched its Chatty Bus service at the beginning of March, when lockdown wasn’t even on the radar. The scheme saw volunteers from Aviva, Konectbus and Age UK give out ‘happy to chat’ badges and help strike up conversations on the bus.

“It was a great success, receiving lots of positive praise from across the Norwich community and even further afield,” said Davina Langley, marketing manager at Konectbus. “Konectbus brings groups of people together with one sole purpose – to travel to where they need to go. Then, by using the power of speech, something which most of us have and the ability to use, we start to chat, breaking down barriers, putting our passengers at ease and making their journeys even more enjoyable.

“We might not all be able to travel at this point in time but soon we shall and our bus network will return to support even more people as they journey to work, visit family and once again get to experience the fabulous places found across our county.”

Davina Langley at the launch of the Chatty Bus service before lockdown   Picture: Victoria PertusaDavina Langley at the launch of the Chatty Bus service before lockdown Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Konectbus has evaluated how to keep these conversations going and bring the Chatty Bus concept to people who are staying safe in their homes, and has come up with the idea of a virtual Chatty Bus.

“Our Chatty Bus champions contact people who are feeling isolated in their homes and spark conversations,” explained Davina. “The team is made up of our bus drivers and other Konectbus employees who are currently on furlough and willing to volunteer their time, alongside those from local businesses and charities who are happy to chat, share stories and simply offer a friendly listening ear – maybe even spark a new friendship.”

Konectbus and Age UK Norwich will collaborate on the Telephone Befriending scheme to identify local people who would benefit from the support both now, during this time of need, and in the future. Please call 01603 496325 if you would like a friendly call each week.

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“Chatty Bus is a great concept and one that needs to keep its wheels moving,” said Davina. “Whether this be out on the road supporting those key workers using our buses, or by bringing the concept to their home as we remain on lockdown.”

Norwich Together Alliance

In a time of isolation, helping communities to connect has never been more important. It’s vital for our health and wellbeing.

The bus is often a place where communication and friendships begin    Picture: Victoria PertusaThe bus is often a place where communication and friendships begin Picture: Victoria Pertusa

With an ambition to tackle loneliness and social isolation in Norwich, Aviva established the Norwich Together Alliance last year.

The alliance is a network of local businesses, charities and the council that have joined forces to explore how we can shape our city to help us all feel more connected.

The aim is to create a more connected and cohesive city for everyone.

Now more than ever, alliance members wants to be there for you and offer the support and guidance you need to get through this challenging time.

For more information and stories on what the Norwich Together Alliance members are doing to bring Norwich Together during the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.


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