MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN 2017 CAMPAIGN: Chief of Norwich disability charity BUILD highlights crucial role of volunteers

BUILD charity volunteer Victor Hall, 84, with a commemorative bear named after him to celebrate 50 y

BUILD charity volunteer Victor Hall, 84, with a commemorative bear named after him to celebrate 50 years of the Norwich-based disability charity. He is with Lord Mayor of Norwich Marion Maxwell. Picture: PERFECT POSE PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: PERFECT POSE PHOTOGRAPHY

As part of our support of the Voluntary Norfolk Make a Difference in 2017 campaign, the EDP is shining a light on voluntary groups and individuals. Reporter SOPHIE WYLLIE spoke to a leader of a disability charity BUILD who spoke about the importance of volunteers.

James Kearns, chief executive of Norfolk charity BUILD. Picture: DANIEL GRIMMER

James Kearns, chief executive of Norfolk charity BUILD. Picture: DANIEL GRIMMER - Credit: Submitted

It started 50 years ago at Princes Street United Reformed Church in Norwich as a weekly social club for people with disabilities.

And half a century on, the community-based BUILD charity, provides social, leisure and learning opportunities for 500 people a year across Norfolk.

Chief executive James Kearns said: 'Volunteers bring in an enormous wealth of experience and energy.

'We get people who are managing directors of their own companies, people who want to further their own careers and people who want to work in charity or social care.'

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The charity, based on Redwell Street, Norwich, now runs events for people aged 16 and over including gardening, film visits, swimming, Sunday lunch clubs, nightclub visits in Norwich and King's Lynn, international food celebrations and ten pin bowling.

It also organises trips to the Norfolk's cultural and heritage attractions.

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Each year Build runs 9,000 activities, all supported by its 100 volunteers.

One of those is 84-year-old Victor Hall, from Norwich, who has a learning disability and originally benefited from Build's original Wednesday Club in 1967.

The club was run by the late founder of Build, Elizabeth Marais-Taylor, and was a place for residents from the former Little Plumstead Hospital, where Mr Hall lived from 1935 until 1972.

After being a member of the Wednesday Club for 20 years, in which he became an informal volunteer helping his fellow members with activities, he officially took up a voluntary position.

His role was, and continues to be, setting up the room and supporting people with disabilities in the creative arts activities room at the Wednesday Club, first at Princes Street and then at Norwich's Vauxhall Community Hub from 2015.

Mr Kearns said: 'Victor is really reliable and has a great deal of empathy with the people he supports. He is very popular and people respect him enormously. His life epitomises social care over the last 50 years and he brings that wealth of experience.

'He brings a social aspect to the club now. Just because you are older, it doesn't mean you cannot contribute.

'He often talks about friendships he has formed at the club and has met a lot of people through volunteering.

'Victor loves the fact he has got out and about which improves his mental health. He keeps us on our toes.'

Between 2002-2016, Mr Hall volunteered as a trustee and company director of BUILD which involved taking on shared legal and financial responsibilities for the governance of the charity as well as representing his fellow members.

During that time he also volunteered as part of the BUILD training team which involved sharing his life experiences with health and social care students at the University of East Anglia and City College Norwich.

As well as helping with the Wednesday Club he collects donations for BUILD at supermarkets and appears on floats in Norwich's Lord Mayor's parade.

To thank his years of hard work he received the civic award for volunteering from the Lord Mayor of Norwich in 2006.

This year he was awarded with a limited edition commemorative bear named after him to celebrate the charity's 50th anniversary.

'Victor was over the moon about having the bear named after him,' Mr Kearns added.

Some 100 bears have been made, costing £8 each, and can be bought directly from the charity.

The chief executive said volunteers were more important than ever because of the 'shrinking pot' of financial support available to charities.

'The only way we can deliver the service we do is to rely on volunteers,' said Mr Kearns.

Annual running costs of BUILD are between £150,000 and £200,000 a year and the independent charity lost its Norfolk County Council funding four years ago.

It is now funded by personal budgets, charitable trusts and fundraising events.

Mr Kearns said the BUILD was prepared for the cuts four years ago but admitted it had to 'up its game' in the current charity sector fundraising climate.

He added a lot of employers appreciated current and future staff to get voluntary experience and the charity wants to get more businesses in Norfolk involved with volunteering.

For more information about the charity visit, call 01603 618029 or email

Garden party to celebrate 50 years of BUILD charity

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of BUILD the charity is holding a party on the grounds of Norwich Cathedral.

The BUILD Charity Golden Garden Party is happening in the Bishop's Garden on Sunday, June 4, between 1-5pm.

It is open to the public but standard cathedral admission costs apply.

Adults aged 16 and over have to pay £3 to enter but under 16s and wheelchair users can get in for free.

During the celebratory party visitors will also be able to explore the Bishop of Norwich's private gardens, enjoy tea, coffee and cake, watch entertainment and enjoy fete-style games and activities.

BUILD is also relaunching its popular FUSE party nights for members at Mercy XS on Prince of Wales Road, Norwich, on Thursday, April 27. The nightclub event will take place from 6.30-9pm.

For updates search theBUILDcharity on Facebook.

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