VOLUNTARY NORFOLK MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN 2017 CAMPAIGN: Cromer and Sheringham Coastguard volunteer happy to help her community

Bernice Stowe who volunteers with the Cromer Coastguard. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Bernice Stowe who volunteers with the Cromer Coastguard. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

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 busy Coastguard crew member.

Bernice Stowe. Picture: Paul Stowe

Bernice Stowe. Picture: Paul Stowe - Credit: Paul Stowe

'Life is a puzzle - bits have to fit in. If you want to do volunteering, just do it.'

That is the simple message from Bernice Stowe, 58, from Clifton Park in Cromer, who has been a member of the voluntary Coastguard service for five years alongside being a volunteer at a community café in the town.

Over the past few years the self-employed carer has also been a volunteer for the Cromer Christmas lights committee and helped out with a hairdressing service at the town's Halsey House care home.

And when Mrs Stowe, who has three grown-up children, is not working or volunteering she helps look after two of her three grandchildren as well as caring for two rescue horses.

Bernice Stowe. Picture: Paul Stowe

Bernice Stowe. Picture: Paul Stowe - Credit: Paul Stowe


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She said: 'I am busy but I don't think about that - I just get on with it. I like helping people. It makes me feel happy.'

The 58-year-old is backing the Voluntary Norfolk Make a Difference in 2017 campaign which is encouraging people across Norfolk to take up volunteering.

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Mrs Stowe added: 'The great thing about volunteering is you meet some lovely like-minded people and you are making a difference to your community.

'Anybody can be a volunteer with the right qualities. You need to have empathy, sympathy, understanding and good communication skills. It is also good for you to contribute something to somebody in your local community.

'If you have retired and don't want to stop working or if you are looking for another job or change of career sometimes volunteering can open other doors for you with a permanent job.

'There are all sorts of different volunteering jobs out there, people should just try one and they might surprise themselves to how easy it is.'

Her favourite voluntary role is with the Cromer and Sheringham Coastguard where she is a Coastguard Rescue Officer and part of the cliff rescue team.

'I needed something to do after my children had grown-up. I absolutely love it and I have met some lovely people. We as a volunteer crew are like a little family - we look out for each other.

'It also helps you do your job through learning communication skills and how to understand others. You meet a lot of people in a variety of situations.'

There are nine people on the Cromer Coastguard team and five in Sheringham.

The volunteers come from all walks of life and vary in ages and professions - from builders to business owners.

They go through weekly training sessions to learn crucial skills used in real-life operations with other emergency services including missing people searches along the coast; rescuing people and animals from cliffs; and helping communities affected by flooding.

Mrs Stowe said people in Cromer and surrounding coastal areas appreciated the Coastguard as they knew they were in safe hands.

'You may not see us, but we are here 24/7. It gives people comfort.'

As part of her Coastguard role, she has promoted beach safety as part of the Crucial Crew programme run by Norfolk Fire Service for the past four years.

The annual programme involves all emergency services which explains different scenarios and relevant safety advice to Norfolk school children.

Mrs Stowe added it was even more crucial to spread beach and cliff safety advice following the recent tidal surge and 2013 floods.

Away from her search and rescue role she recently became Community Matters Café volunteer at Cromer Methodist Church Hall.

It is open to anyone, especially isolated people, and provides friendship and free hot food every Monday and Thursday.

To find out more about opportunities available through Voluntary Norfolk visit www.voluntarynorfolk.org.ukAre you a involved in a voluntary group? Email sophie.wyllie@archant.co.uk

COASTGUARD PAST AND PRESENT

Cromer and Sheringham Coastguard is a voluntary search and rescue service which is part of HM Coastguard offering 24/7 emergency cover.

Such emergencies they help with include cliff, mud and water rescues as well as searching for missing people.

Volunteers are first-aid trained and work with police officers, ambulance crews, the fire service, lifeguards, lifeboat volunteers, flood rescue groups, air ambulance crews and the Coastguard rescue helicopter.

The predecessor of the modern organisation was established in 1809 as the Waterguard, which was originally devoted to the prevention of smuggling as a department of the HM Customs and Excise authority.

In 1829, the first UK Coastguard instructions involved carrying out preventative duties.

When a wreck took place, the Coastguard was responsible for taking action to save lives, take charge of the vessel and protect property.

To find out more about the Cromer and Sheringham Coastguard service search the group on Facebook.

CROMER COMMUNITY CAFE

The Community Matters Café at Cromer Methodist Church Hall on West Street was set up initially as a pilot project in early 2015.

It was established by the Rev Sharon Willimott, Methodist minister for the north Norfolk circuit, with the aim of tackling the increasing problem of loneliness and rural isolation.

It runs every Monday and Thursday from 11am-1pm and provides free food and drinks, including homemade food, puddings, tea and coffee.

The café is supported by Cromer churches and Cromer and District Foodbank.

It is open to anyone and volunteers not only cook and dish out the food, but offer a listening ear to people who want to talk through problems or just have a simple conversation.

Bernice Stowe, who only started volunteering three weeks ago, said: 'People know we are there and know they can get a hot meal in the warm. I do worry about vulnerable people.'

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