Charities call for more volunteers to help families survive and thrive

Suffolk charities are collectively calling for more volunteers to play a vital role in keeping the county’s residents connected, supported and healthy, as the third lockdown extends toward March.

Organisations throughout the region have seen an unprecedented pull on their services since the pandemic began, and this month has seen another surge in requirement to fill crucial volunteer vacancies.

Dozens of adults are needed for such roles as mentors, NHS responders, family befrienders, community co-ordinators, hospice volunteers, and trustees.

Community Action Suffolk, a body which supports the voluntary sector, believes the county’s volunteers are the vital contribution in helping ensure fewer families and individuals suffer isolation, mental health difficulties or loneliness in this latest wave of the Covid crisis.

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Janet Perry, Volunteering Development Officer for CAS, said: “We already know that voluntary organisations throughout Suffolk have seen an incredible increase in demand on their services throughout the pandemic, and yet at the same time, many who may have previously been regular volunteers are perhaps having to shield or are unable to give their time in the way they once were.

“It’s therefore vital we can find a new army of volunteer heroes who can contribute in so many positive ways to how our county’s residents are supported.

“The pressures on families are immense, as is the level of anxiety, often coupled with being isolated, so volunteers help provide the friendship and the additional support which is key to maintaining wellbeing.”

A YouGov poll released toward the end of last year confirmed there had been a decline in people’s ability to cope with the stress of the pandemic, from 72% to 63% (from April to November). Almost half (45%) felt they were unable to cope with the uncertainty, and yet 61% said that being kind to others or receiving kindness from others had a positive impact on their health.

Among the breadth of organisations needing volunteer vacancies urgently filled in the east of Suffolk in particular, are – Home-Start in Suffolk, Your Own Place, St Elizabeth Hospice, Suffolk Scouts, Active Suffolk and North East Suffolk Citizen Advice Bureau.

Simone Black, from Your Own Place, said: “We are in our third year of running a mentoring project at HMP Warren Hill, thanks to funding from Vestey Holdings. The aim of the project is for the volunteers to support residents using our positive and restorative approaches, taught during our two-day training course, to reduce homelessness and reoffending.

“The project has an amazing effect on both mentors and mentees.”

In a bid to help more people take their first steps into volunteering, Community Action Suffolk is staging an online course referred to as the East Suffolk Volunteer Passport.

The free initiative takes place in March and can be booked online.

More volunteer vacancies are listed at volunteersuffolk.org.uk and further enquiries can be sent to janet.perry@communityactionsuffolk.org.uk

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