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Participants of VODA’s NT LIFE Recovery College in North Tyneside received a special surprise at their door recently with the delivery of a Little Box of Hope to help support them through this challenging time.
NT LIFE – which is funded by the North Tyneside CCG – created 200 Little Boxes of Hope, each containing a series of exercises, contacts, poems and motivational quotes and a number of small gifts, each with an explanation of why they have been included have been collated and distributed with help from a number of volunteers, support from the team at One Below at the Silverlink and funding from the North East Suicide Prevention Network.
Over the course of the COVID-19 crisis, NT LIFE Recovery College worker Ali Donkin has had to completely rethink the support offered to participants. Part of the ethos of NT LIFE is the ability to come together to share experiences and learn how to manage our own wellbeing and mental health. However, the coronavirus has (temporarily) put a stop to these face to face activities.
Ali quickly adapted NT LIFE to ensure that she is still able to support those who need it via online resources, with the NT LIFE Facebook page becoming a central point of contact for daily support and resources. The Facebook page and website feature a range of online resources including the 11:11 Mindfulness 5 Minute mindfulness journal, downloadable activities and free courses, alongside home delivered activity packs from the team at VODA. The NT LIFE course facilitators have also created a range of online sessions accessible via video conferencing platform Zoom.
It became clear that some of the people involved in NT LIFE were finding the lockdown particularly difficult and so Ali decided to create a Little Box of Hope to help them through. Ali commented: “I created the Little Box of Hope firstly to reach out and let people know they are not alone and to help them through these challenging times. There is always someone on the outside thinking of them and willing to help. They have worth and value even if they don’t feel that way right now. If at the very least it makes someone smile for a moment, in spite of their anxieties and fears, then we really have achieved something important.”
Some of the items in the box are to give the person a moment to STOP and take time to adjust their thinking, to recognise these feelings are not permanent. There are also items that are metaphors, for example the yoyo – a distraction – the soothing motion of the yoyo on the string, but also a reminder of simpler times playing with childhood toys. The box also includes practical things such as the list of crisis contacts and helplines. There are tools and techniques for dealing with feelings and also some things that are simply humorous.
“I recall many a time when I have witnessed in myself and others how humour can bring us back from the brink,” says Ali.
What do we hope this box will achieve? Ali comments: “My deepest hope is that for anyone who really is at their lowest, is thinking seriously about ending their life, it stops them in the moment and offers an alternative choice. If it prevents even one suicide then this little box of hope will be priceless.”
Feedback so far has shown that the boxes have been well received:
“I was having a really bad day today in fact I was close to ending everything. I can’t describe how much it means to me. I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. To know someone thinks enough to put something like that together and deliver it is the most amazing thing I have ever had.”
“Paddy and Linda Rogan are both in their seventies. I’ve been shopping for them for the last couple of months. Paddy has dementia so Linda can’t leave him and he doesn’t understand the social distancing policies everywhere.”
“My sister has been living with mental ill health for 30 years and doesn’t get out much, lockdown or not. She really appreciated her box.”
“Thank you so much for my lovely gift and thoughts. It was so lovely of you. it moved me tears. You are a diamond. Is there any other stone more precious because if there is I’ll have to start calling you that one?”
“Just wanted to say a huge thank you for my box today. The box made me cry and made me feel so special. It’s absolutely beautiful and I will treasure it, thank you so much.”
“Thank you so much for the comfort packs for me and my mam, I don’t know if you know this but our cat was knocked over and killed early yesterday morning. We are going to use the box as a memory box for her.”
The boxes were collated and delivered by a team of volunteers, who also found that they benefited from the activity. With volunteers commenting:
“On Friday for the first time in a long while I felt excited and involved.”
“Thank you so much for your help, support and the laughter we had on Friday packing the Little Boxes of Hope. It was an amazing day from my perspective and having delivered some of these over the weekend they are getting a great response.”
The response to the VODA volunteering opportunities has been overwhelming, as of the end of last week we had recruited over 250 new volunteers, carried out almost 1200 tasks and spent £10,800 on shopping.
Understandably, the range of volunteering opportunities has been massively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, with most on hold until we can return to some sort of normality. However, there are still opportunities for those of you who are able to get out and about to help with the response efforts, as well as a few things you can do from home.
If you have a volunteering opportunity that you would like us to promote, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
VODA volunteering opportunities
COVID-19 Good Neighbours update
Please note, there is currently a waiting list for both our Tier 1 and Tier 3 Good Neighbours roles. Find out more about these roles and sign up to the waiting list here.
Make someone’s day with a letter (home based)
VODA is running a social action project that you can take part in from home. Our SAINT team (Social Action in North Tyneside) would like to expand this to include letters to the beneficiaries to brighten their days.
All you have to do is write a nice letter (ideally one side of A4), with whatever you think you would like to receive yourself. You could share what you have been up to during lockdown, things you are thankful for, a favourite poem or song lyrics, or a little anecdote to brighten someone’s day.
Take a picture of the letter (make sure you can read it clearly on your screen) and email the picture to email@example.com. We will then print them and add to future food parcels.
Other COVID-19 volunteering opportunities
Food Share (Newcastle-based)
FoodCycle is looking for food prep and food parcel delivery drivers in the west end of Newcastle. Find out more here.
Each week FareShare North East deliver 80kg of surplus food to each of the 200 organisations who are providing vital assistance to vulnerable people. They have a range of volunteer roles available, including; warehouse assistant, driver, admin assistant, social media ambassador, community champion, customer service, volunteer engagement and community fundraiser.
To find out more, go to https://fareshare.org.uk/volunteer/ and complete the form to help decide which roles are suitable for you.
West End Refugee Service (home based)
WERS is recruiting volunteer remote befrienders to support a family or an individual in Newcastle/Gateshead through Covid-19 with phone calls and video chats, to give social support, information about staying safe and connecting with services. You will play an important role in helping a family or individual with a refugee background feel more welcomed, supported and safe during this time. Go to their volunteering page to find out more www.wers.org.uk/how-to-help/volunteering/
The Palette is seeking volunteers to help deliver Kids Art Boxes across the North East!
All you need is a valid UK drivers licence and insurance on your vehicle and spare time on a Tuesday (at a time to suit you). They will provide a pre-planned route for deliveries to your chosen area and 45p per estimated mile you drive.
If you might be interested, please fill in a no-obligation registration at www.thepalettenewcastle.com/at-home-arts-programme. They will then send you an information leaflet so you can decide if you’d like to help out!
Making for the NHS (home based)
Making for NHS North of Tyne is a collaboration between North Tyneside based businesses and our local community, making cotton bags and crafts for those in need both in the NHS and families affected by the Coronavirus.
HenPower Henpals scheme from Equal Arts (home based)
Henpower is asking for letters and cards that they can distribute to people in care homes (their Hensioners) https://www.facebook.com/henpowerproject/. You can take a picture of the letter or card and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Digital Story Chain from Equal Arts (home based)
Help create a piece of lockdown literature alongside acclaimed author Kate Mosse. Equal Arts story chain is shared and shaped by everyone’s different ideas to help keep us connected and creative. Take part at www.equalarts.org.uk/story-chain
Age UK North Tyneside
AGE UK North Tyneside is seeking volunteers with cars to provide local patient transport to get the routinely discharged older people out of hospital and back home ahead of the peak of the pandemic.
They also need more telephone befrienders, find our more here https://www.ageuk.org.uk/northtyneside/get-involved/volunteer/
Dreamshine (home based)
Dreamshine telephone befriending volunteers, you can sign up here – https://voda.org.uk/opportunity/telephone-support-covid-19-711/ Or here http://dreamshine.co.uk/contact-us/ (new volunteers can join a waiting list).
The national GoodSam scheme will reopen in a few weeks – https://www.goodsamapp.org/NHSvolunteerresponders
Non-Covid 19 roles
Forest Hall Young People’s Club is looking for volunteer (s) caretaker / groundsperson to help cut, maintain and mark the grass pitches at their Pavilion. Expected hours are 4/5 hours per week during warmer weather, less throughout winter. https://voda.org.uk/opportunity/caretaker-groundsperson-695/
Princes Trust has a role available for online mentors – https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/support-our-work/volunteer/become-an-online-mentor.
Common Room of the North archives volunteer – https://thecommonroom.org.uk/can-you-help-us/. they can induct new volunteers remotely
The government has created a new webpage which pulls together all information and advice for VCSE organisations on funding, fundraising and volunteer guidance.
The voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector plays a key role across the country, positively impacting the life of many.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the sector has been mobilising across the UK providing practical and emotional support to vulnerable groups. Understandably, the financial implications to mobilising and supporting volunteers and the increased demand in services has placed pressure on the sector.
The page contains information and advice on how the VCSE sector can safely and effectively support the country through the coronavirus pandemic.
Areas covered include:
- Guidance for those working in these sectors
- Guidance about funding and fundraising
- The role of volunteers
Dreamshine Community Interest Company is looking for volunteers for their COVID-19 telephone helpline.
The helpline (0300 3658554) covers all of North Tyneside and is for anyone feeling overwhelmed, lonely, anxious, nervous or just needing a good old chat.
The team will be available between 10am and 2pm, 7 days per week, with the potential for the hours to increase if there is demand and volunteers to support it.
In light of the COVID-19 outbreak we are scaling up our Good Neighbours volunteering project to help address the needs of our local communities across North Tyneside. We are seeking volunteers who can commit a small amount of time to supporting their communities during these difficult times. We are working with North Tyneside Council and local community groups to identify people who require support whilst they are self-isolating due to infection or as a precautionary measure.
We have developed three temporary volunteering roles to help meet demand. Tier 1 roles that do not involve face to face contact with potentially vulnerable people including shopping and making up isolation packs. The Tier 3 role will involve face to face contact with vulnerable people, handling money and having access to medication. These roles will require volunteers to have an Enhanced DBS check.
All volunteers will be supported by VODA. Read more and access the role descriptions here.
In the face of the current COVID-19 pandemic charities and communities groups across the country are pulling out all the stops to support some of our most vulnerable residents whilst also protecting their staff and making plans for business continuity. Here at VODA we are grappling with a number of possible scenarios including staff sickness, the need to cancel activities and the potential shut down of our premises.
To help our members make their own plans we thought it would be useful to share the following links. Please do get in touch if we can be of any further assistance during these difficult times:
Coronavirus Government Guidance –worth checking on a daily basis
NCVO advice specific to voluntary and community organisations
Ward Hadaway advice on supporting your workforce
The Charities Facility Management Group guide to developing a business continuity plan