We are a group of volunteers who give good neighbourly help to people who do not have friends or family nearby to support them.
Our group offers:
- Transport to medical appointments
- Transport to social events
- Sitting for carers
- Neighbourhood lunches
- Helping with pets
- Minor repairs and DIY
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others” (1 Peter 4:10)
Sheila Gill is the leader of the Christ Church Portsdown Good Neighbours team. Here, she talks about the scheme and provides more information for anyone thinking of becoming a volunteer.
Why are you recruiting more volunteers, Sheila?
The team of Good Neighbours has been doing a great job supporting people from across the Portsdown and surrounding areas, but each year we see an increase in the requests for help and we now need to expand the team so we can provide help to those who need it. One of the reasons for the increase was our own determination to encourage those living alone to get out more. Loneliness is a huge problem, especially among the senior members of our community. Organising not only transport but encouraging people to come to various social things, like the 1940s themed party as part of the Christ Church events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D Day, led to a huge increase in the number of requests for social transport trips, which is great news – but it does mean we need more volunteers to help us provide the transport.
What kind of things would a volunteer do?
The type of support we offer includes transport to medical appointments or social activities, shopping, visiting, just sitting with someone while their carer goes out, helping with pets, minor household repairs and small gardening jobs. For example, a volunteer was able to walk someone’s dog after he had been in hospital for an operation and couldn’t walk the dog himself. Another volunteer just pops in on a 95 year old lady who doesn’t have family nearby, just to have a cup of tea and a chat. For a lady who is nearly blind and hard of hearing, having a volunteer read to her, keeping her up with the news from around the community, and helping her manage her post, means a great deal. If a volunteer has an odd hour to spend, we can match them up with people who need their help.
How much time would someone need to commit to become a Good Neighbour?
There’s no set requirement. People can offer as much or as little time as they can spare, and can vary the support they provide at any time. That’s one of the great things about being a Good Neighbour – the scheme is flexible enough to ensure that, while we keep the promises we make to those who need our help, we don’t overwork our volunteers. I’m very pleased to be able to say that we’ve never had a Good Neighbour step down because they’ve felt that the demands had become too much.
How easy is it to become a volunteer?
It couldn’t be simpler. We just fill in an application form which takes a few minutes. The usual formal checks are then done, which the Good Neighbour Scheme arranges, and after a chat with me and then with one of the coordinators, if everyone’s happy, that’s about it.
Is there an age limit for volunteers?
No – we currently have volunteers ranging from their 30s to their 80s.
Does someone need to be a member of the Christ Church congregation to volunteer?
No, not at all. We’re linked with the Christ Church Portsdown organisation, but some of our volunteers are not regular church-goers.
What kind of training do volunteers get?
There’s no need for any formal training but, after the initial induction, if a volunteer needs any support or coaching at any time, we’re very happy to provide it and we do encourage people to develop their skills.
Are volunteers paid?
Their time isn’t paid for – they volunteer it. However, we do pay for their mileage or any agreed out of pocket expenses. The greatest reward for our volunteers is in knowing they’re making a real difference to people, often by doing something relatively simple or taking very little time. And, of course, research indicates that volunteering is actually very good for someone’s health and can lead to a longer life. Isn’t that a great thought? It’s a real win-win for everyone!
Do the volunteers get together?
Yes – we try to build a sense of community across our volunteer network, although we avoid doing too much as we’re respectful that they’re already giving time to support those in need. We have had a number of fun social events, like tea at the Pavilion Tearooms at Stansted Park last summer and a Supper Evening over the winter. Feedback from volunteers shows they enjoy the opportunity to become part of a group.
What does someone need to do if they want to become a volunteer, or at least find out more about the Good Neighbour scheme?
They can contact us via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Good Neighbours Helpline on 07842 367490.
When you’re thinking of trying something new, there’s nothing quite like hearing from someone who is already doing it and who can share their experience. Here, to help you make up your mind, we feature an interview with one of our Christ Church Portsdown volunteers….
What made you decide to become a Good Neighbours volunteer?
Through my own experience with my elderly parents, I could see the need in the community for the kind of services offered by this group, and the opportunity for me to make a difference by becoming a volunteer myself.
How much time do you spend being a Good Neighbour in an average week?
One of the good things about being part of this team is that I can vary the time I spend providing support, so it fits in with the other parts of my life. The most has been two hours in a week – but that’s not every week.
What kind of things have you done as a Good Neighbour?
It varies – which is another nice thing. I’m not doing the same thing all the time. Sometimes I help people with their shopping, or provide transport to medical appointments or their social events. Sometimes, I go on “befriending” visits, which means I just call in and have a cup of tea and a natter with someone who might otherwise not have anyone else to talk to.
Weren’t you worried about someone becoming dependent upon your support?
No, because the group has a system in place that means you only visit the same person up to six times, then someone else will take your place to provide more support if needed.
What would you say have been the positives about volunteering as a Good Neighbour?
I really like the fact that I know that I’m being really helpful and useful. Even though I am only spending an hour or two here and there, which fits in with my life very easily, I know what I’m doing is making a real difference to people. That makes me feel very good and valued as a person.
What would you say to anyone thinking about joining the group as a volunteer?
Give it a go! There is no commitment to any particular job at a particular time: you take each task request as it comes and, if you can take it on, then that is up to you – you can give just as much as you feel able.