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How being a Good Neighbour can really make a difference

As part of North Tyneside Council’s #WhoCares week, we want to share this lovely Good Neighbours case study with you to show the difference volunteering can make to both the volunteer and the beneficiary’s life…

Janet Ross Good Neighbours VolunteerFor many years Janet Ross from Forrest Hall had informally helped her local community alongside her full-time job. However, after taking early retirement, Janet took the step to sign up to volunteering through VODA as a way of keeping active in the community and meeting some new people.

She joined the Good Neighbours project in early 2019 with the aim of helping someone locally with odd jobs typical of a ‘Good Neighbour’. VODA supports and trains volunteers to become Good Neighbours and carry out small jobs for people in North Tyneside who are unable to do them independently.

Janet offers to do little jobs for people, such as picking up little bits of shopping or dropping round soup on a cold day. She fits volunteering around her busy schedule and says that while these tasks take hardly any time out of her day, they actually make a big difference to the people she visits.

Janet likes that she can be of practical help, which can help bring communities closer. Speaking of her experience visiting housebound older people, Janet says: “I am inspired by people’s resilience to hardship and their acceptance of difficult situations. This is something that drives my passion for volunteering as I can use my skill base to make a difference to people’s lives. Although I initially signed up to help people in my local area, I have since found that I get more out of volunteering than I could have ever imagined.”

In addition to odd jobs Janet decided to take on some regular tasks for Good Neighbours. VODA’s Good Neighbours project worker, Ian Brigstock, matched Janet with Joan who is of a similar age and lives close to her home in Forrest Hall. Joan finds getting out of the house difficult so Janet visits her weekly. With some support and a friendly face to rely on, Joan and Janet have been able to take trips to The Rising Sun Country Park and local cafes for lunch.  The two have developed a unique bond through Good Neighbours and Janet plans to take Joan to a Motown dancing event in November, something which Joan hasn’t been able to enjoy for many years.

Joan was referred into Good Neighbours through the re-ablement team for some social contact as she had struggled with agoraphobia for many years.

The pair meet regularly every week and Joan says: “Ian (Brigstock) could not have done a better job at matching me with Janet as she is the same age and has a number of similar interests. Janet has become someone that I can trust; I struggle with anxiety and find leaving the house difficult. Janet has been a great support in helping me tackle my anxieties; she is always there to calm me down when things get too much.”

Janet and Joan often take trips out into the local community for lunch or social activities, and Joan is confident that Janet won’t leave her alone if she becomes anxious when out and about. Janet has played a big part in pushing Joan out of her comfort zone and building confidence.

Janet has supported Joan to use the computer to get quotes for repaving her garden; the work has since been done and has transformed the garden into a space that Joan and her little dog can enjoy spending time in. Janet will be teaching Joan the basics of gardening and helping her to plant spring bulbs. In return Joan has helped Janet with jigsaw puzzles and given her bags of apples to bake with. Joan has such a caring nature and by being able to help Janet with small odd jobs has boosted her confidence and self esteem massively.

Joan commented that: ‘We have become genuine friends through the Good Neighbours project. I admire Janet so much, she gives me hope when times are difficult. But is not just about that, because we’re friends now we help each other out, it’s nice to be able to give something back and offer support to Janet should she need it. I’ll often pop round to collect her for a trip out or offer help with projects. I tell myself regularly – If Janet can do it, I can do it…. she gives me inspiration and I can’t thank her enough.”

Janet commented: “I’m so pleased with the support from Good Neighbours during my volunteering. I meet up with other volunteers on a regular basis and it’s wonderful to feel valued and part of a group who care about the community.”

This winter, if you’ve got a spare couple of minutes, why not check in on an older neighbour?  Your visit to see if they need any shopping or help clearing their icy pathways could really make their week.

Contact a Good Neighbours worker on 0191 643 2626 or email admin@voda.org.uk.