Be a Community Connector!

Community Connectors

Our Connectors provide vital support to vulnerable people by link them to local social activities and support services.   We match you based on your availability and location and provide you with an appointment time.  Your role will be to:

  • Support the person to achieve their goals which might mean attending a new club with them for the first time to build confidence
  • Provide client updates to Community Facilitators regularly
  • Work with the support of the office team to identify suitable services and spend time talking through these with the client
  • Complete basic templates and paperwork to record the work you have carried out
  • Attending community events to raise the profile of Community Connections (optional)

 Skills and Qualifications needed

Enthusiasm and a commitment to supporting vulnerable adults are essential.  We will provide you with the training that you need though knowledge of the borough of Lewisham would be a bonus.  You will need to have excellent English language skills and listening skills, additional language skills will be most welcome.

Training

We will provide you with person centred planning training in addition to our volunteer induction and provide a forum events to meet with other volunteers and the Volunteer Coordinator to share learning.

If you would like to volunteer with us then contact us on:  0208 314 3244

communityconnections@ageuklands.org.uk

Our NEW befriending and mentoring scheme!

norma with driverA few months ago I wrote a blog post about befriending, what people get out of it and why it is a service that is so badly needed in the borough.  Several months on there is still a pressing need for more befrienders, and the links that form between volunteers and people who were previously very isolated are the building blocks of the all-important community ties that in our experience really must continue to be emphasised in care strategies at both local and national levels in the future.

With all of this in mind I am pleased to be able to tell you all today about our own brand new befriending scheme that is being run by our colleagues over at Volunteer Centre Lewisham (VCL).  Before I launch into the detail, I think it is important to acknowledge that it is really a reflection of the dynamic and responsive voluntary sector in Lewisham that the project has been started up.  This is something that all involved should be proud of, from the commissioners at Lewisham Council who had the foresight to fund the work that we have done to the development workers and facilitators within Community Connections that have uncovered this need and worked so hard to address it, to the wonderful staff at VCL who are in charge of the befriending project to the new volunteers who have already signed up to be befrienders.  I think this project is not only an important practical step on the road to making Lewisham a better place to grow old, it also sends a strong message to everyone that the voluntary sector in Lewisham listens to service users and responds effectively. Without further ado then, here is the key information about the project:

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS BEFRIENDING AND MENTORING SCHEME

Volunteer Centre Lewisham’s Community Connections Befriending Scheme is aimed at providing 1-2-1 as well as group support to older and vulnerable adults in the Borough of Lewisham.

How we work

We recruit, train and supervise people interested in becoming volunteer befrienders and introduce befrienders and service users to each other in a friendly, informal and supportive process. The main aim of this befriending scheme is to actively promote independence and recovery.  The Befriending Co-ordinator & volunteer befrienders will work with rather than for the service user.

Who do we work with?

Anyone who is over the age of 18 and belongs to the following groups may be able to use our service:

  • Carers
  • Older people
  • Disabled people
  • Substance abusers
  • People at risk of exclusion
  • Vulnerable adults

The Befriending Co-ordinator will meet with you to do an initial assessment and will discuss what you need from us and how we can support you. This might include help to access an activity, learning a new skill, accompanying you for appointments or simply having someone to talk to.

Once we know what you need the Befriending Co-ordinator will find you a suitable volunteer and introduce you as soon as possible.

How to access the service

You can self-refer or you can be referred by your Doctor, by social services or through other agencies. Befriending Scheme Referral Form

We are recruiting

The Befriending scheme depends on volunteers and we are always looking for reliable and committed people interested in becoming volunteer befrienders to support vulnerable and older adults in the local community.  Click this link to see the volunteer role description:  Volunteer Befriender

We offer full training and support to all our volunteers and we provide out of pocket expenses as well. 

For more information please call Aparna Sapre, Community Connections Befriending Co-ordinator on 020 8613 7113 or E-mail: community1@volunteercentrelewishamorg.uk

So if you have a few hours to spare and would like to be more involved in your community, please come and join us!

Post by Henry

Ways to Wellbeing – Introductory Session

If you’ve been following our posts about Ways to Wellbeing, you might be interested in this introductory session run by Voluntary Action Lewisham all about the 5 Ways to Wellbeing!

Five Ways to Wellbeing – free introductory session 

Voluntary Action Lewisham has engaged with over 100 individuals in Lewisham, representing over 60 charities, in the Five Ways to Wellbeing. VAL is running an introductory session on Thursday 11 December.
This event is for staff and volunteers from Lewisham organisations and is aimed at those who have not attended a session previously.
Book now! This event is free – but booking online is essential.

Connect!

Have you heard about the 5 ways to wellbeing?  Here at community connections we think they give people a really simple and useful way of thinking about how they could make small changes in their lives to make themselves feel happier and improve their mental health.  Back in 2008 the New Economics Foundation (NEF) introduced the 5 ways to wellbeing and they have since been adopted by various organisations in the UK to inform their work and inspire people to make positive behavioural changes.

This is the first in a series of features we will be doing here on the Community Connections blog about the 5 ways to wellbeing, and when better to start than on World Mental Health Day!  In each post we will outline the point of discussion (one of the ways to wellbeing), spend a little time thinking about how it might have a positive impact on someone’s wellbeing and also give some indication about how our work in the Community Connections project connects with it.

So without further ado let’s get cracking! We are going to start with “Connect”.

five-ways-connect

This is basically about making the most of people around you, developing human relationships and ties to others.  Whether they are family, friends, people at work, or other people in your life, you will find that by investing time in your relationships with people you will feel enriched and better supported.

So why does connecting with people have such a positive impact on wellbeing?  There are several reasons for this but two of them really stand out.  The first is the fact that human beings are social creatures.  We are just made to be with other people, and our minds crave the company of others.  Have a think about the happiest moments of your life and ask yourself how many of those moments were dependent on other people or their actions.  It is quite a lot, isn’t it?  The majority probably!

The second reason that connecting with people has a positive effect on wellbeing is that people are our support networks.  If we start to have a wobble mentally or if we have a bad day, what can pick us up more quickly and effectively than the company of others?  Ever felt better after moaning about a bad day on the phone with a friend?  Ever noticed how getting something off your chest can make the world of difference?  This is why staying connected to the people around you is so important.

Here at Community Connections we take staying connected very seriously.  Earlier in the year I wrote about the need for befrienders in the borough, and befrienders continue to make incredibly valuable contributions to helping isolated people feel more connected.  In nearly everything we do we are helping people stay connected and make new connections with others.  Our development work with voluntary groups is all about building capacity within communities to enable people to support each other more, and every time someone goes with one of our facilitators to a new lunch club or exercise class they are expanding their own support network.

So have a think about your own networks and how you could expand them.  Make a point of ringing an old friend once a week, or connect with someone online.  You’ll be surprised how good it makes you feel!

Post by Henry

Caught on Camera

Here is a video of Henry and I visiting the Lewisham Speaking Up ‘Big Parliament’ a few weeks ago at The Albany. We were asked to come and talk to the members about what the Community Connections Project is about and ask people to spread the word. We prepared a presentation in which we sought to give an overview of all the many activities that community groups and organisations offer in Lewisham, but the list was so big that we only had time to mention a few.

During the presentation we talked about groups that we have got to know and all the great work they do, as well as being able to talk about clients that we have already worked with that are now able to access activities and hobbies that they enjoy. We also asked people to challenge us to find new skills or activities that they would like to learn, so that we can continue to make new links in the Lewisham community.

I was very nervous but luckily everyone was friendly and welcoming and we were able to really enjoy talking about what Community Connections does and what we hope it can do for people in Lewisham in the future. Working on the presentation even gave me a chance to realise just how much I have learnt in the short time I have been working in the team.

We hoped that we would be able to get people interested in finding out what’s going on locally to them and we were very pleased when we received referrals after the presentation. We are hoping to get the opportunity to present to as many groups and clubs as possible so we can tell everyone about the good work that’s going on in Lewisham for people to get active, socialise, volunteer, maybe even access employment or simply learn new skills.

Post by Sam Farinha

Wheels for Wellbeing

 

I heard about ‘Wheels for Wellbeing’ from my colleague Henry, he was really enthusiastic about this project so I thought I’d give it shot. ‘Wheels for Wellbeing’ aim to make cycling accessible for everyone; they do this by providing an array of adapted cycles and intriguing contraptions! I asked a client of mine, James, whether he’d like to try it out. We were both a little unsure of what this activity would be like as James uses an electric wheelchair most of the time. When we arrived we saw that there was a wide choice of bicycles. We used a ‘Velo Plus Wheelchair bike’ the cyclist sits behind the wheelchair user, who sits securely in the front.

Click here to see a video!

This was an interesting experience for both of us and it was surprisingly easy to ride. We saw that there were people of various abilities using the bikes. One of the most interesting bikes was the ‘Handcycle’. This bike can be utilised by those who cannot use their legs. I tried it out, it’s good fun and is definitely a great arm workout! James was interested in trying out the ‘Handcycle’ in the future to build up his strength. James felt that he’d prefer to do this activity outdoors, ‘Wheels for Wellbeing’ have told us that they plan to do just that in Ladywell, Lewisham, once the weather picks up. I would strongly recommend this activity for anyone who’d like to get back into cycling or just try something a little different. It’s also a good chance to socialise and meet new people in your local area. This activity takes place each Tuesdays 12-1pm at Ladywell Day Centre.

Post by Rosa Parker

photo (19)

Surviving, Striving, Thriving?

Two weeks ago I went to a conference hosted by the Centre for Community Engagement Research at Goldsmiths University. It was called “Communities surviving, striving, thriving? A day of dialogue and action.”
One of the most thought provoking moments of the day for me came right at the start when Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters offered up a thoughtful and engaging critique of multiculturalism and multifaithism. Her objections to these movements were centred on how they can have a homogenising effect on minority communities; allowing people to check the “we are being inclusive” box by referring to “the Muslim community” or “the Somali community”, for example. It is of course important to recognise the existence of these communities, to be able to work with them and include them in discussions and actions that will affect them just as they affect the wider population. But it is this repeated reference to “them” to which Pragna objects. As if “they” are a homogenous lot and “their” views can be represented by individual (usually religious) community leaders. It was, in a way, a plea for a wider recognition of intersectionality. The recognition that, in essence, people are not just members of the ethnic and religious communities they are (usually) born into, but that their identities are far more complex and they will themselves identify with several different communities at once and, most importantly, that this will have effects that cannot easily be broken down into their constituent parts.

We also heard from a number of other panelists including Mat Danaher from the Unison trade union whose impassioned call for people to restore faith and renew support for the trade union movement was warmly received and former young mayor of Lewisham Jacob Sakil in a day that managed to encompass a heated debate on food banks alongside workshops on the effective use of music as a means to engage with communities and on what the concept of democracy means to communities. There was even an agreement to take immediate action to address the problem of homelessness within the student population at Goldsmiths.

A running theme throughout the day and one that is most relevant to our work in Community Connections was the need to build more resilience and strengthen bonds in communities. It is a common reaction to the world we are presented with in 2014 which is characterised to a large extent by the disappearance of those links between people that once bred the kind of mutual support that we are struggling to provide to our ageing population. A world that Zygmunt Bauman calls “Liquid Modernity”. Crucially though, our attempts in the voluntary sector to reinvigorate communities are not (and should not be) just nostalgic calls for the solidarity of bygone eras, lest we reinforce the homogenising effects referred to above. Instead we must strive to celebrate the complexity that exists within us all, recognise each other as assets, and offer up support that blurs the lines drawn up by this well-intentioned drive to tolerance we call multiculturalism.

Post by Henry

Monday Morning JOY!

I went to visit a local voluntary group called Just Older Youth (JOY) this morning and I have to say I was blown away by their energy and enthusiasm! On Mondays they run three separate events in three separate venues; Tai-Chi (£2.00), Seated Exercise (£1.50) and a “Chop and Chat” group.  There was a fantastic community spirit underpinning all of these events and everyone was having such a good time.  JOY is operated entirely by volunteers and I think they are a shining example of how the voluntary sector works at its best to produce cost-effective solutions in response to localised concerns.

The approach of JOY is really neatly summed up by their name; they want to consider older people who live locally as people, just young people, who happen to be a bit older.  They still crave social interaction, and get a buzz from physical activity, and want to be able to contribute to their community.

JOY are always looking for new people to attend their groups and classes, so if you fancy taking part or know someone who does, check out their list of activities.

I also wonder if there are other groups or organisations in the Borough that are similar to JOY and operate in other areas.  Do you work for one? Do you know of one?  If so, we’d love to hear about them, so please get in touch!

Post by Henry

“So many organisations!”

Hello world!

After a month of getting the word out and visiting the good people of Lewisham in their homes, surgeries, offices and theatres we are advancing further into the processes of mapping services and taking referrals here at Community Connections.  Some of the most enjoyable days out we have had were at Meet Me at the Albany (http://www.thealbany.org.uk/event_detail/1048/Clubs/Meet-me-at-the-Albany), the Launch of the Over 55s Thursday Club at Honor Oak Community Centre (http://www.60up.org.uk/hocc-over-55s-thursday-club/), the “Wellvember Fayre” by Healthwatch Lewisham (http://www.healthwatchlewisham.co.uk/) in the Civic Suite in Catford, and the Health and Social Care forum run by Voluntary Action Lewisham (http://valewisham.org.uk/blog/health-and-social-care-forum-0#.UrG9jdJdW8A) in the Albany theatre, Deptford (http://www.thealbany.org.uk/) but this list barely scratches the surface of what has been a month of exciting discovery for all of us…

In fact there are so many excellent organisations – statutory and non-statutory – working with adults in the Borough that it prompted one GP to complain to us recently that there are “So many organisations offering services now that it gets quite confusing”.  And there is some truth in this.  There are all kinds of projects, groups and forums that people can get involved in in the borough and whilst this is certainly a thing to be celebrated, it can also be bewildering for everyone involved.

The task of the Community Development Workers here at Community Connections is to try to make sense of all of this and to get a real understanding of what services are available, who they are appropriate for, and how, with the input of service-users, they might be improved.  We are not just producing another directory of services; this is not simply a process of putting together a new list for a council leaflet.  Rather we are looking at the rich variety of opportunity in the borough, trying to get first-hand experience of as much of it as possible, and supporting everyone to develop services for the better.

So, if you’re an organisation operating in the borough and you’d like more involvement from service users in planning and delivery but are not sure how to go about this, then get in touch.  Likewise if you are someone who regularly accesses services in the borough and would like to have more of a say in the kinds of opportunities you are offered.

We can be contacted at:

communityconnections@ageuklands.org.uk

You can call us on: 07704 235535

And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @cc_lewisham

Finally, Merry Christmas to one and all, and we’ll be back in the new year.

(Post by Henry)