Good Neighbours Case Study

Good Neighbours Case Study: Hazel

Haze; GNWhen I broke my hip in November, it was a huge shock to me and very unexpected. I was living on my own and the weather was really bad. We were going through a cold snap with snow and ice. I didn’t feel confident at all stepping outside of my front door.

I felt stuck, I was very isolated and feeling very lonely. I was signposted to VODA and they gave me support when I needed it most. The staff were so supportive and helpful to me, and I was so relieved that I was able to get help from a volunteer who was happy to get my shopping for me.

One of my biggest concerns was that I was not able to get food and litter for my lovely cats, but VODA made sure that we all looked after.

I would really recommend the Good Neighbours project; the staff and volunteers are amazing, and the support made the world of difference to me when I needed it.

Visit our Good Neighbours page to find out more and see what volunteering opportunities are available.

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Good Neighbours – John & Carlos

Good Neighbours beneficiary John and Good Neighbours volunteer Carlos, who take part in both our Buddy and Social Shopping Scheme, have a chat to explain how the Good Neighbours project has made a difference to them…

VODA’s Good Neighbours project is one of several organisations that are a part of the Endling Loneliness project (ELP), which was created to tackle loneliness in the borough of North Tyneside.

The Good Neighbours project seeks to help anyone over the age of 18, whether it be due to age, health or disability, who can’t do certain things for themselves and have no family or friends that they can call on for help.

Our Buddy Project and Social Shopping Scheme are just some of the ways that we look to assist the local community. The Buddy Project provides short-term, practical one-to-one support to help a person improve their confidence in accessing their local community. Our Social Shopping Scheme assists an individual with their weekly shopping, including transport to and from the supermarket, company whilst shopping, assistance with bags all finishing with a cuppa and chat in the supermarket café.


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Katie and Carol

Katie and Carol have been meeting up together since before Christmas. Carol had lost her confidence following a stroke and was left with mobility problems down her left side. She was wanting help to get out a bit more to get back some of her independence. Katie is a student studying at Newcastle University. She was keen to volunteer for the project to help members of the community.

This is what Katie has said about her experience of the project:

“I have really enjoyed meeting up with Carol. Activities have included taking her out shopping, going for lunch, attending appointments. I have seen Carol become more confident and she has started to go back to her Stroke group. Being a student, you mostly are in contact with other students and being away from home you don’t have much contact with family. This has been a nice escape from student life and we have built up a relationship where we enjoy meeting up and talking to each other. I would strongly recommend volunteering with the buddy project. It doesn’t interfere with my studies and it’s been lovely to give something back.”

This is what Carol has said since being a part of the project:

I feel more confident and back into the world again. I get on really well with Katie she is lovely. My children are grown up and it’s like having my daughter back with me. We have similar interests and always have lots to talk about. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t found Katie, I’m so grateful. We both plan to have a meal soon to celebrate both of our birthdays. We just clicked right away. We have been out and about shopping; my appointments; by the lake and the swans (which we hope to do more of in the summer). This has helped me to get out in the fresh air. I had a set back in January after a fall; and was so appreciative to have help from Katie during that time.”



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Mike Turner: Good Neighbours Volunteer

VODA’s Good Neighbours project coordinates a host of friendly volunteers who are keen to support their local community. During these difficult times, we have worked hard to help as many people with grocery shopping, collecting prescriptions, odd DIY jobs and community buddy support.  


Mike has volunteered in North Tyneside for many years. He has begun trying some Good Neighbours project volunteering and made a huge difference in a couple of months.  

Since September, Mike has visited 5 people to complete handyman jobs including changing a bulb, shaving doors, hammering down laminate flooring and painting damaged skirting boards. Mike has also given over 4 hours of his time to one of VODA’s charity partners, the refugee and asylum seeking charity, Walking With.  

One beneficiary had been quoted £240 for a job of which Mike was able to complete half, saving them £120. They told us the DIY had really helped and they were now able to shut their bedroom door properly.  

We don’t accept referrals for specific joinery, electricity or plumbing jobs and you don’t need any special skills to be a Good Neighbour, only skills you would use in everyday life.  

Mike fits all of his volunteering around his life as it suits him and he has been able to take a look at any ongoing or unmatched opportunities by consulting our new Volunteero platform.  

Volunteero is an app that can be used on smartphones or an internet browser. From there, you can enquire further about a Mission to see if it would be a good fit and to access further coordinator support. The team are very happy to work with you over the telephone or by email too if an app isn’t your thing. 

Mike has also begun supporting people as a Community Buddy, where you can go for a small walk or a cuppa with people who have been mostly house-bound for the past 18 months. This role is for a fixed number of weeks with a view to building up confidence with being back out in public and with people who have limited mobility. 

The Good Neighbours project is also seeking volunteers to help with gardening jobs which could involve clearing and sweeping paths, cutting back shrubs and weeding. We can provide you with some of the necessary tools and you could cheer up somebody who can no longer manage their garden. 

We continue to ask all volunteers to follow COVID safety precautions such as mask wearing. If you would like to find out more about our volunteering opportunities please do get in touch!  




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Volunteers’ Week: Good Neighbour Sherrill Bacchus

Sherrill moved to the North East from Cambridge four years ago. She had worked in recruitment for many years, but decided it was time for a change, as she didn’t feel like she was really living life. So, one day she decided that there had to be more to life than working crazy hours, paying the mortgage and living for the weekend, so she put her flat up for sale, handed in her notice at work and moved up north to be closer to her best friend of 40 years!

Sherrill absolutely loves living up here, she said: “I’m surrounded by beautiful coastal scenery and fabulous, friendly people, plus I’ve discovered brown ale, stotties and the Lindisfarne festival, what more does a girl need?”

The Covid-19 pandemic put Sherrill’s plans to convert a van and travel round the world on hold. so instead she turned to volunteering.  Sherrill initially downloaded the NHS Responders app so she could start volunteering, but there were some teething problems and no one contacted her, then her neighbour told her about the Good Neighbours scheme, as he had been helping to deliver food parcels.

Sherrill started off helping with prescription deliveries and food shopping via Good Neighbours for people who were high risk and self isolating. She then progressed to becoming a volunteer driver for the Family Gateway and working in the Howdelicious cafe at the Howdon hub. She also helps out there in the kitchen Monday – Friday helping make up the free meals that are delivered to vulnerable families in the local area. Sherrill said the charity are doing amazing work and she finds it so rewarding personally to know she’s able to help people. “I still find it crazy to think we live in a world where people are struggling to get food!”

Sherrill was also one of the first volunteers to become a Garden Gate Buddy. She and her buddy met on a weekly basis from August to October, which worked really well. The lady she visited was very down to earth and independent, but had been stuck inside her flat for over a year due to very bad arthritis in her legs and feet. So, Sherrill would sit in the lady’s garden with her. Sherrill said Josie Robinson at VODA did a fabulous job matching them together as they had so many things in common and both loved a good chin wag.

Sherrill has really enjoyed being able to help people wherever she can. Just being able to listen and empathise with someone means so much to them and to her!

“I’m a huge believer in remembering that you never know what someone is really going through and a small act of kindness could make someone’s day and put a smile on their face!! The pandemic has affected everyone’s mental health and I’ve met so many lonely people, who literally just want to have a chat with another human being, in person, so I’ve been happy to oblige!

“On a personal note, I live alone, so I was also starting to feel very isolated and cut off from the world, unable to socialise, meet friends, go to my festivals (which I love!), so volunteering has truly helped me both mentally and physically. I really am grateful for it!

“If you have the time, I highly recommend volunteering! It’s such a lovely, rewarding feeling, knowing you’ve helped someone and more than likely made their day, week, maybe even month!”

Sherrill has been shopping for Sylvia for the last three months. One week, Sylvia saw adverts on TV advertising pink hair dye and was very keen to get the look herself. Sherrill got her a semi-permanent dye to begin with, but it only lasted a couple of washes so Sherrill went out again and bought her a permanent one. Sylvia now loves her pink/purple hair (see photo to left of Sylvia with her new hair colour).

Once Sherrill bought both of them a bunch of yellow roses as they were both feeling down.

“Volunteering for Sylvia has helped me. I regularly look forward to doing her shopping as she always puts a smile on my face. Sylvia is a ray of sunshine; she is easy to talk to, very funny, laid back and says what she thinks. Sylvia had not been out for the whole of lockdown but has managed to see a friend recently and found it really nice getting out. Sylvia is very open about feeling low sometimes, but by the end of the conversation we’re laughing.“

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Volunteers’ Week: Good Neighbour Charlie Fernandez

Charlie got involved with volunteering as he doesn’t like sitting around. He has worked all his life, starting off as a merchant navy engineer and then became a mechanical engineer. Charlie’s wife passed away four years ago and the company he was working for asked if he wanted to take retirement but advised him to ‘not sell his tools’. In terms of volunteering, Charlie had a look online and VODA came up. Being semi-retired and doing some volunteering ‘breaks the day/week up nicely.’

Charlie started with Family Gateway delivering meals from Howden, which is pretty regular so he gets to chat to people. Once his enhanced DBS came through, he also starting doing grocery shopping using the Volunteero app. Charlie finds this works well as you can choose how much you want to do and it only involves the click of a button. He does get the odd text message from the Good Neighbours team asking ‘Can you do a shop?’, which is fine too. He has a couple of people he shops for regularly in Forest Hall.

Charlie was born and raised in India and moved to the UK in 1968. Charlie really likes meeting different people, but has found some of the older generation are a quite surprised when he turns up at their door. “Once they get to know me it’s fine.” This experience hasn’t put him off.

To anyone thinking of volunteering, Charlie says: “I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s quite a nice experience. You meet all sorts of people. I like driving so it’s a plus. I absolutely love it.”

Update: Sadly Charlie passed away in August 2021. Our condolences to his family and friends.


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Andy Burtenshaw: Good Neighbours Volunteer

Andy is an ‘ex Southerner’ who has lived in the North East for more than 20 years. He has more than 30 plus years’ experience of working in HR, most recently at Teesside University and Gateshead Council.

Lockdown came and Andy wanted to do something to help and keep busy. He didn’t feel he knew his local area that well having worked in different localities so it was an opportunity to engage with where he lives.

Andy had always enjoyed meeting people as part of his job. Initially, Andy looked on North Tyneside Council’s website to try and help with employability given that he has a role as an Enterprise Adviser with the HR Professional Body (CIPD) supporting the Tees Valley Combined Authority. However, he didn’t hear back and when he chased them they suggested he consider Good Neighbour instead. Andy found it was easy to sign up and the process of getting an email/phone call outlining a job is very straightforward.

Andy started with the shopping scheme despite describing himself as “not a great shopper”. At the beginning of lockdown there was lots queuing involved and things you weren’t able to find, which drove him mad. There were also some local items that he couldn’t get or he hadn’t heard of before such as chicken butter pie. Andy found it interesting learning some of them and knowing where to go, and enjoyed having some regulars to shop for.

This led on to ‘buddying’. Andy was very reluctant with buddying to begin with; he has a hearing impairment and wearing face masks means he is unable to lip read plus he found the combination of face mask and ‘Geordie’ difficult for him to understand. However, because Andy meets both of his buddies outdoors and at a safe distance face masks have not been necessary.

Andy started the garden gate scheme in August when he went to visit Melanie, who was unable to walk far due to a health condition and preferred if someone would come to her home. After his first visit, Andy had no idea whether he was making a tangible difference. The key moment for him was getting feedback that it was working and he’s since learnt that just being there is helping.

Melanie and Andy have been lucky with the weather and have continued meeting in her garden despite it being autumn. There was one day when the weather was torrential and they both stood under cover in her garden. Andy has enjoyed going to see her and thinks, should the official visits come to an end, he’d be happy to exchange details and keep in touch.

Melanie commented: “The garden gate scheme is a wonderful service; I’m really enjoying it. I get dead excited about Andy coming. It’s spurred me on to do things and not sit here panicking; it’s given me purpose. Andy’s a lovely gentleman and we’ve met three times so far. I prefer the continuity of the same person visiting rather than speaking to a different person each time with telephone befriending. My garden gate buddy and I are like chalk and cheese, but that’s a good thing.”

In addition, Andy has been visiting Derek every other week since September. Derek had previously fallen and broken a bone hence being weary about going out. They started with a short 20 minute walk the first week, which increased in the length the next time they met. By week three, Andy and Derek were not paying attention where they were going and got hopelessly lost near the Rising Sun Country Park. Andy now knows to stick to routes where they know how to get back.

Andy found getting out and meeting new people has done him good. The experience has also made him reflect on life. He is very happy volunteering and this has led to him recently becoming a trustee for VODA.

 “You get a positive feeling that money can’t buy.”

Andy’s daughter is currently furloughed and he is trying to ‘twist her arm’ to give volunteering a go as he thinks she would enjoy it as well as helping her get out and giving her something to do. Andy had really enjoyed being a volunteer.

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Kerry: Good Neighbours Beneficiary & Volunteer

Kerry is one of our amazing Good Neighbours walking buddies, who has been working hard to help her fellow North Tynesiders during the pandemic. However, she did not start out as a volunteer, but instead she herself was on the receiving end of support from another of the Good Neighbours’ team. Her experiences of receiving this support inspired Kerry to sign up to help others once she was able to.

In 2017 Kerry caught the flu which developed into a chest infection. She went from having cold symptoms to seizing in a short space of time and ended up on life support for five days. Kerry now takes a daily steroid for her asthma.

Kerry had been volunteering for Beach Access North East, but had to stop during the pandemic. She anticipated how things would go with the spread of Covid-19 and starting shielding two weeks before the national lockdown. Kerry felt guilty about this as it meant her parents had to shield as well and she’d already suffered with poor mental health in the past.

Kerry and her parents wanted to eat as healthy as possible with quality ingredients. They started to panic when they tried signing up for a supermarket food slot and none were available, and there was no fresh food in the house. It meant so much to Kerry that a Good Neighbours volunteer, Kim, brought her shopping that week. It helped Kerry realise that society still cared about her and that she wasn’t a burden or worthless, but valued. She’d never been so excited to see a bag of shopping.

“A complete stranger risked her own safety and took time out of her day to help.”

Kerry’s family were able to access some supermarket slots after this point and began to receive a regular food parcel via Good Neighbours. Kerry found that was easier to ask a stranger for help as she knew a volunteer definitely meant it. Kerry thought the process of receiving a food parcel really straight forward.

Kerry came out of shielding in July after keeping an eye on the infection rates. She’d been out of the house once after 10 weeks, but found after weeks of shielding she was terrified of the world and everything in it. Kerry had previously worked in the care profession, which wouldn’t be possible again until a vaccine became available.

Kerry wanted to feel useful and raised some money for the Samaritans by climbing the St Mary’s lighthouse several times in one go. After that, she saw that VODA was looking for walking buddies and thought she’d be perfect as she’d gone through shielding herself and was low risk to others.

Kerry now has two walking buddies. Anne is not used to walking far and tends to use a wheelchair. She has poor eyesight and does not feel confident on her feet. They walk together to the end of the street and back, but are building it up each week. Anne needs to hold to Kerry’s arm, but they both wear facemasks and feel quite safe walking out in the open air.

Kerry also visits Trish once a week, who used to be an agony aunt and has some fantastic stories. Kerry appreciates all the wisdom that Trish shares and has grown extremely fond of her. Kerry sits in the garden by the backdoor and Trish sits inside at a distance, which again feels perfectly safe.

Trish is undergoing chemo and does not have long to live. She would like to capture her life experiences, but is getting very tired and asked Kerry if she knew of anyone who would do it. Kerry keenly volunteered and takes a voice recorder to their meetings in order to write up what Trish shares. She hopes to put together some bundles for Trish’s family as a result. Kerry experiences bad anxiety, but has found that Trish has rubbed off on her. Every opportunity Trish has been presented with she’s said yes, which has inspired Kerry and has had a real positive impact on her life.

Kerry’s highlight from volunteering has been meeting Trish.

“I’m so grateful that things in the universe have aligned that we’ve been brought together.”

Kerry would advise anyone to take a leaf out of Trish’s book and say ‘yes’.

“You will get far more out of it that you would ever realise.”

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Leigh Culyer: Good Neighbours Volunteer

After seeing a number of posts on social media about supporting the most vulnerable residents of North Tyneside during the COVID-19 lockdown, retired Head Teacher Leigh Culyer from North Shields enlisted to help by joining VODA’s Good Neighbours and the national Good Sam scheme.

Leigh, who is currently studying to be a counsellor at Newcastle College was keen to help people isolating and shielding who would be unable to shop, access essential services and pick up medication. Leigh commented: “I worried that many of these people could be alone and without families or friends to support them. I felt that if I could help in a small way it might make things easier for those most vulnerable who needed support”. Leigh now has four regulars that she shops for each week, as well as delivering prescriptions and topping up gas and electricity.

One of Leigh’s regulars is an elderly lady who lives alone and has existing health conditions and will be isolating at least until the end of June. Her family live in another part of the country and are key workers. Leigh has been delivering shopping to her since the beginning of the lockdown and is the only person she sees from week to week. Their relationship has developed from volunteer and beneficiary to good friends, with Leigh planning to continue her visits when lockdown is over.

Leigh has loved all aspects of the volunteering role, but the biggest part has been getting to know the residents. “The feeling of a community who works together for the benefit of others has been really special. The organisation and the people running the project have been so friendly, helpful and efficient. Overall, the project has brought so many people together for the needs of others – a great positive to come out of this crisis.”

When asked if she would recommend volunteering to others, Leigh said: Definitely, it’s a great way to give some of your time and skills to benefit and support others. You will meet new people, feel part of a community and put a smile on someone’s face. Giving just a little of your time can mean a great deal to others.”

*Photo shows Leigh with her new grandson Albert, born a few weeks before the lockdown.

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Pat: Good Neighbours Volunteer

Pat from Whitley Bay was in Spain with her husband and dog when the Coronavirus lockdown started to happen and they quickly made their way home. As soon as she returned, Pat started thinking of what she could do to help people in her local community most affected by the crisis.

Pat commented: “I was really keen to do something useful, like most of us, and researched volunteer groups on the internet. I immediately found VODA and the NHS volunteer responders’ scheme and applied for both.  Once the application process started with VODA, like all the other applicants, I became eager to do my first job.”

Since signing up, Pat has undertaken a number of roles for VODA’s COVID-19 Good Neighbours, including delivering shopping for a number of residents as well as an emergency prescription pick up. She has also become a regular shopper for one lady who is nearly 90. Pat is keen to keep this relationship going as the older lady has very little contact with anyone else and has begun to rely on the weekly contact with Pat for her food delivery but also for the weekly telephone call Pat makes to her, checking her food order to make sure she’s ordered enough food for herself for the week.

Reflecting on her experience of signing up as a volunteer with Good Neighbours Pat said: “Every member of staff from VODA has taken the actions the volunteers are doing so personally, it’s like we are doing this for them! In every email and conversation you all make me feel that you are personally grateful for everything I do – I feel so valued and appreciated – as if I am unique and special and doing a brilliant job.  I never expected to feel this from the staff as a volunteer. It’s been brilliant.”

As Pat had more time on her hands than was called upon by the volunteer groups, she decided to help the food banks that she’d heard were desperately in need of donations. Pat asked all her neighbours in the surrounding area of her home if they would like to get involved too, and they did, in a very generous way. She set up a donation bin on her drive and wrote to all her neighbours asking for donations of food to be placed in the bin and offered to collect any donations on Thursday evenings after the Clap for Carers at 8 pm for all those neighbours who couldn’t leave their homes. The neighbours left their donations on their driveways for Pat and husband Tony to collect.  For the last 3 weeks Pat and Tony have delivered car boot’s worth of food to the Bay Foodbank.  This is something they are planning to continue and now have another local street involved. As well as being able to support the food bank, Pat says her neighbours are grateful to be able to contribute to helping others during the pandemic, and it helps with their own wellbeing at the same time.

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