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.

Stay Active

So here we are with our second blog post on the five ways to wellbeing.  This time we’re looking at staying active as a way to maintain or even improve your mental and physical wellbeing.  Staying active is really about exercising your body’s muscles.  And this doesn’t mean you have to be going to the gym and lifting weights everyday.  It’s about doing what you can, what’s right for you, and what makes you feel good (for me it is cycling!).

Getting exercise is well known to be associated with levels of endorphins which are natural chemicals made in your body which make you feel good.  Most people will know from their own experience that being active does really have a positive effect on how well they feel.  And keeping muscles that little bit stronger can make all the difference as we become older and more frail.

This is why in our work in Lewisham we are always trying to help people to stay active.  There are so many things to do in your local area!  Some people like to go on healthy walks, others choose to do a bit of chair-based exercise every week, there is walking football, inclusive cycling, and now there are gym instructors who are specially trained to work with people with a range of disabilities!

There are so many more things to do as well, this is really just a small snapshot.  So if you’d like a bit of support in staying active, in keeping your muscles working and the endorphins flowing, you can always get in touch on 0208 314 3244 or communityconnections@ageuklands.org.uk.

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

100% Great!

Mr. W, a gentleman of 74, was referred to Community Connections in December 2013 by Lewisham Council. I was assigned as his Community Support Facilitator. Around the same time Lewisham Council’s social services were working very hard to support Mr. W after some time spent in hospital. The Holy Cross church in Catford has also been wonderful in the support they have offered him. Holy Cross bring communion to Mr. W.’s home, they also brought him hot meals throughout the winter and are encouraging him to attend social events at their church.

I worked with Mr. W between December 2013 and February 2014. In this time Mr W. and I explored what kinds of activities would improve his life. I also spent time encouraging Mr. W. to take care of himself and his home.

Mr W. loves football and socialising, he also likes to go to the local cafe for breakfast. I linked him up with Age UK Lewisham and Southwark End Loneliness Project. This project provides befrienders to visit people who are feeling isolated. A befriender was provided for Mr. W., who likes football and also loves to socialise, so that have plenty of common interests! This befriender is hoping to arrange a Men’s social group in the future. Mr. W. expressed that he was very enthusiastic about this prospect. He also told me that he’ll soon be introducing his befriender to his favourite café!

During the follow up visit Mr. W stated that he felt a lot better and also felt that he was more active and had met more people. Mr. W. looked in really good health and he said that he was feeling well. He had improved drastically since December. When asked about his befriender Mr. W, said that he was “a smashing bloke.” He felt that the input from Community Connections, Holy Cross Church and Lewisham council had improved his life. I asked Mr. W. if there was anything else he would like to add about the Community Connections project, he replied “you’re just 100% great.” This case is a really positive example of how Community Connections can work in partnership with other agencies to enhance the wellbeing of an individual. This is also an excellent case of organisations working in an integrated manner. I look forward to reporting upon many more cases like this!

Post by Rosa Parker, Community Support Facilitator

All the way to the Timebank…

I’ve been thinking a lot about timebanking recently and the impact it can have on the lives of people and on communities. I think three things that really stand out about the timebanking model that set it apart from other models of volunteering and service delivery are that it is egalitarian, hyper-local, and bottom-up.  Egalitarian in the sense that everyone’s time is worth the same amount; usually one hour of anyone’s time is equal to one “Time Credit”. Hyper local in the sense that it operates at the level of very local communities – people volunteering their time to support their neighbours – which is something most traditional organisations and agencies struggle to develop.  And bottom-up in the sense that it is driven by the members themselves; they understand the assets in their own communities and how they can be best put to use in order to address local need.

Here in Lewisham we are lucky to have a dedicated team working at Rushey Green Time Bank (RGTB) who have also set up a number of local hubs in the borough.  We have already been working closely with RGTB to facilitate some person-to-person time exchanges which have benefited some of our service users and we anticipate this model of volunteering being an effective mode of support for people across the borough for a long time to come.

Of course, every timebank grows to be more effective and useful as more people get involved, and there is always room for more members, so maybe you could join in? Remember, for every hour you volunteer, you can get an hour back from another time bank member.  Maybe you need some help in the garden? Or someone to show you how to use your new computer?  The timebank could be just what you need…

You can contact Rushey Green Time Bank on 020 7138 1772 or email them at: rusheygreen@gmail.com.

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

Could you be a befriender?

First off, I would like to wish everyone a belated Happy New Year and I hope you enjoyed your break from work, time with your family, or your time at work if you were working through the festive period. This is also a good opportunity to share with you our new flyer which is doing the rounds; please do share it with friends and colleagues:

Community_connections_flyer_PDF_HiRes

Whilst the spirit of giving may be rapidly fading from your mind as normal life resumes, I wanted to take the opportunity to throw another log on the charitable fire by highlighting one of the most significant needs we have uncovered through our work in Lewisham since November; the need for befrienders.

Befrienders are volunteers who go out and visit people in their homes for a couple of hours per week, maybe do some odd jobs round the house for them, and possibly support them to get out for a bit of fresh air or some shopping. They provide an absolutely essential service for people who are isolated in their homes because of illness or disability and can have a profound effect on that person’s quality of life. Befrienders will find they benefit themselves from the interaction with the person they are supporting who might share a skill with them, regale them with stories from their past, or offer advice drawn from a lifetime of experience.

There are a number of organisations in Lewisham who offer befriending services including Age UK Lewisham and Southwark (http://www.ageuk.org.uk/lewishamandsouthwark/), Voluntary Services Lewisham (http://www.vslonline.org.uk/) and Independent Age (http://www.independentage.org/) but they all need more volunteers to continue to meet ever increasing need.  So if you think you could be a befriender, get in touch with one of them, or contact us at: communityconnections@ageuklands.org.uk.

Alternatively, maybe you work for an organisation that is considering developing a new befriending service in Lewisham, if so please send us an email, we’d love to hear from you and offer support from our community development team.

Post by Henry