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volunteer

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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North Tyneside comes together to provide a lifeline from the community

Press release from North Tyneside Council 28.04.20

North Tyneside Council launched its dedicated Covid-19 support hub last month for those in need of immediate help and support and who can’t call on anyone else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s part of the local authority’s response to the pandemic, helping to shield its most vulnerable residents who are living in their home without support from others, by providing non-clinical help.

And it’s been thanks to local authority staff and an army of volunteers that the hub has already helped over 3,200 residents.

A 62-strong council team – made up of the existing contact centre and 28 others who volunteered to be redeployed from their existing role – have fielded over 3,200 calls from the public. A further 65 redeployed staff are helping to support the hub by making regular welfare phone calls, checking that people have food, spending time talking to them and helping to identify any extra help and support they may need to help them to shield.

The requests into the hub from the public have included help picking up prescriptions, household supplies, grocery shopping and purchasing pet food.

North Tyneside-based charity VODA has then mobilised 255 newly recruited volunteers to carry out over 700 tasks to date, via their Good Neighbours project.

Volunteers from charities Age UK North Tyneside and Dreamshine are also offering a befriending telephone service to chat with people who may feel lonely during isolation.

It really is a community effort – with staff and volunteers from Family Gateway and Cedarwood Trust, two other local charities, also delivering meals to residents, while other charities and community groups are focusing their efforts on providing support over the telephone and via digital channels.

And 43 businesses have offered their services as part of the support hub too, helping to provide essential groceries and prepared meals, through North Tyneside Business Forum.

North Tyneside Elected Mayor, Norma Redfearn CBE said: “Protecting our most vulnerable residents is always a top priority for this council – and the support hub is absolutely critical in helping to do so right now.

“Working side-by-side with so many remarkable organisations, groups and volunteers means we have been able to help everyone who has urgently needed our support. We could not do this without them, and I would like to thank them all.

“The response from the community has been truly humbling – there have been acts of kindness shown right across the borough. We have had so many community-spirted people willing to help in many different ways, and I am delighted we have been able to coordinate so much of this so successfully through the support hub and, of course, only with VODA’s help.”

Chief Executive of VODA, Robin Fry added: “It’s been amazing to see so many local residents, community groups and charities come together to offer vital support to some of our most vulnerable residents. There has always been a strong culture of volunteering and social action across the borough and we are lucky to have some amazing charities who have been able to adapt their services to meet demand. The contribution of the voluntary sector is going to more important than ever to help our communities recover from this pandemic.”

One of hub’s volunteers is Julie Partridge, a retired teacher from Whitley Bay, who has regularly been grocery shopping and doing telephone shifts talking to those feeling lonely, as well as mentoring young people.

Julie said: “The experience has been an absolute pleasure. I have enjoyed so much about this experience – the smiles, the laughter and the feeling of being a tiny helping part of a much, much bigger movement. I would encourage others thinking about volunteering to just do it!

“I wanted to volunteer during this time because there are many things about the present situation that are so completely beyond our control that I am concerned about people’s mental health and wellbeing.

“One of my regular weekly shopping trips has become a ‘chat’ as well. Once a week we chat on the phone as we go over the list and I make sure that I’m not in a rush when delivering the shopping. The person that I shop for has acknowledged that they are struggling with their mental health in the present climate and seems to enjoy the interaction that we have. Many people have used the phrase ‘human voice’ and I believe that is what is needed at this time.”

The opening hours for the COVID-19 support hub are Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm, and is available via TEL: 0345 2000 101 or emailing contact.us@northtyneside.gov.uk.

While it is available to anyone in urgent need of non-clinical help in the borough, priority will be given to those identified by the NHS as critically vulnerable due to health conditions.

North Tyneside Council’s contact centre is run by its partner Engie.

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VODA launches COVID-19 volunteering opportunities

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.

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VODA’s AGM and Awards Presentation 2019

Our Annual General Meeting and awards presentation took place on Wednesday 23 October at the Linskill Centre in North Shields.

As well as a presentation of VODA’s latest annual report and accounts, the event featured keynote speaker Wendy Burke, Director of Public Health at North Tyneside Council, who discussed Population Health in North Tyneside and the role of the voluntary sector.

We also announced the winners of VODA’s North Tyneside VCS awards. Earsdon and Wellfield Community Association was the winner of Organisation of the Year. Volunteer of the Year was Rizwan Ali, from Walking With in North Tyneside, Young Volunteer of the Year went to Bobbi-Lou Taylor from Tyne Met College and the Trustee of the Year was Anna McConville from Pathways 4 All, as well as a special commendations for Young Volunteer Abi Jackson from Creative Minds and to the Tynemouth Scouts. Read more about the award winners here.

In addition, three local businesses –  Carney Consultancy, Bell Group and Accenture – were presented with their Community Friendly Business Awards by Ian Dodds, who coordinates VODA’s Sector Connector project. Read more about the Community Friendly Business Award winners here

 

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Volunteer of the Year: Rizwan Ali

Rizwan Ali is a volunteer with Walking With in North Tyneside, a charity that supports refugees and asylum seekers. Rizwan came to the UK with his mother and sisters to claim asylum in the UK, the family were fleeing for their lives from the Taliban,they were beaten and threatened with violence on numerous occasion. Rizwan’s brothers disappeared and the family still don’t know what happened to them.

Since coming to the UK, Rizwan’s mother has had a stroke and Rizwan  is now a carer for her as well as looking after his three younger sisters ensuring they attended school and helping to run the household. When Rizwan turned 21 he was treated different to his family by the Home Office and his application for refugee status was refused, stopping his payments and support. Rizwan can not engage into any employment and is in threat of being returned to his country on a regular basis. Rizwan is technically destitute, he still lives with his mother and sisters who support him as much as they can on their small amount of money from the Home Office.

However, despite all of the challenges and hardship he faces, Rizwan is determined to better himself and to help others. Rizwan has been attending ESOL classes at college where he has improved his English immensely. He has also engaged with the sports college and is training to become a rugby player. He is also hoping to become a community champion to help others to become more active.

Rizwan has been volunteering with Walking With in North Tyneside for four years, where he supports in the kitchen to cook for all the service users (Asylum Seekers and Refugees) on a weekly basis, even during Ramadan when he cannot eat during the day himself, Rizwan still cooks and gives 100% to his role. He never complains about his own difficult situation and is a credit to Walking With and a great ambassador for Asylum Seekers.

Pauline Hughes from Walking With commented: “Rizwan has overcome a lot of personal issues in his life, he has lost his childhood, his brothers and father, yet he still has a great outlook on life and helps people from all walks of life. He is so unselfish, thinking about others before himself. Rizwan deserves recognition for all his hard work and commitment as a volunteer and a human being.”

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Walking With in North Tyneside: Volunteer Trustee

Walking With in North Tyneside supports asylum seekers, refugees and other members of the local community in North Tyneside with a clear focus at present on Wallsend. Based currently in Wallsend centre. They provide a food bank, clothing bank and targeted support for asylum seekers, those seeking refugee status and members of the community in need. Having been in operation for 18 years, the organisation is supported by a wide range of bodies, including local churches, schools, community groups and individuals. There is a team of dedicated volunteers who work directly with the clients, particularly during open house sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays. They also provide craft sessions, a conversation café and English lessons, all delivered by the volunteer team. There is always a warm welcome to anyone to join this team.

Walking With is managed by a full time manager who reports to the Board of Trustees. They are seeking two/three individuals to complement the team by becoming volunteer trustees to share in the overall management, oversight and development of the organisation. The board meets formally up to six times per annum with the opportunity to attend open house sessions, development groups and training opportunities as appropriate. Trustees are also encouraged to take specific responsibility for oversight of a particular aspect of our work, e.g. safeguarding, volunteer support, financial monitoring. This is a particularly exciting time to join the organisation as they are currently are seeking to expand our provision, increase our overall volunteer team across the piece and generally to increase the scope of their operation substantially. They therefore seek trustees who can contribute to this development, who are energetic, optimistic and flexible. Induction and training are given.

What skills do I need?

Individuals who offer financial, administrative, organisational, fundraising, analytical and technical skills. However, a genuine appreciation of the needs of the client group, a willingness to learn how this group is best supported and a shared conviction that together Walking With can make a real and enduring difference in the lives of those who turn to them for help is of prime importance. If this is an area which interest you, and to which you feel you could contribute meaningfully, then they would love to speak with you. Learn more by visiting the Walking With website.

Read more here. 

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Volunteering opportunity: Can you spare a few hours to support a young person at risk of offending or re-offending?

Northumbria Coalition Against Crime is looking for volunteers for its award-winning Odyssesus project, which provides mentoring support to young offenders and helps to steer them away from crime.

Induction programmes take place throughout the year in which volunteers receive 30 hours training.

See the poster for full details, including contact information.

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VODA Volunteer Emma Ramshaw wins Volunteer of the Year Award

Emma Ramshaw, who volunteers for a variety of charities and organisations including VODA, The Prince’s Trust & NCS, has won the Volunteer of the Year award at the Pitman Superachievers Awards 2019.

Emma was nominated by the award by VODA’s Social Action Worker Josie Robinson, who works closely with Emma when she volunteers with VODA. Josie spoke about why she nominated Emma for the award: “For over ten years, Emma has given up her free time to a variety of charities and organisations, helping to care and enabling young people to reach their potential. Despite her own uphill battle, Emma continues to create change in our local community. She is engaging, funny, clever, dedicated and passionate about everything that she does. I couldn’t do the work I do with young people without Emma; and I am very lucky to not only call her a colleague, but a valued friend. She is the kindest person I know and she absolutely deserves to be recognised for her many years of volunteering in North Tyneside.”

Robin Fry, VODA’s Chief Executive commented: “We are very proud of Emma, she is an exceptional person who deserves to win this award for her hard work and dedication. Emma has volunteered with VODA for ten years, and despite the challenges she faces in her own life, she continues to help her local community. Her work empowers others and makes a real difference to people’s lives.”

Visit the Pitman website to view the full nomination and to read about the other winners.

 

 

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#iwill Week Case Study: Hannah Gray

Hannah was referred to VODA over 18 months ago through the Talent Match programme, when she took part in projects around improving employability through volunteering, and around community arts. Keen to try new things, Hannah is a volunteer who will give anything a go and she always immerses herself in group activities. Her involvement in VODA’s #iwill project is no different. This is the story of how she created a digital campaign around positive mental health, which has had a wider reach than she could have possibly imagined…

Funded by The Virgin Money Foundation, VODA’s #iwill project aims to engage young people in digital social action. Volunteers on the project are given the opportunity to learn digital and media skills from a range of local professionals on topics including photography, film-making, web and graphic design, blogging and social media. They are then supported by VODA staff to create digital media campaigns around issues in the community that they care about and to work with existing voluntary and community organisations to help raise their profile through these channels.

Joining at the very beginning in June 2018, Hannah Gray has thrown herself in to the #iwill project. Volunteering as a member of the youth-led steering group, she has been an integral part of the project’s development and the transformation in her confidence and skills base has been outstanding. In the early stages of the project, Hannah worked alongside two other young volunteers all of whom wanted to focus their digital media campaign on raising awareness of positive mental health and empowering people to open up and share how they are feeling. The result is #iwill Unfold.

#iwill Unfold is a mental health campaign that uses online and offline media to engage individuals and groups into a conversation about positive mental health, based on the concept of unfolding feelings and thoughts.

The group decided to create a website and social media channels as a means of sharing people’s mental health experiences, plus information about local support groups and relevant articles. They also decided to use the art of origami and the physical act of folding and unfolding as a symbol of the #iwill Unfold campaign and its messages.

To date, the group have folded over 100 pieces of origami, which have all been branded with their nature-inspired logo design and social media tags. When unfolded, each piece of origami has a hand-written positive message which aims to help people ‘unfold’ their own mental health. These pieces of origami will be delivered to organisations, groups, public spaces and services all over North Tyneside, encouraging local people to access the #iwill Unfold website and social media channels and to share how they ‘unfold’ with others.

Since launching the project in August 2018, Hannah has regularly dedicated over 12 hours a week to the campaign development. From folding origami to developing the website design and content, Hannah really has proved that she can turn her hand to anything! Her passion and enthusiasm for the campaign shines through and she has become a regular fixture at VODA and at local community events around mental health.

During her involvement in the project, Hannah has learned a range of skills and her achievements to date include designing the #iwill Unfold logo and branding using an online tool; taking part in a series of planning meetings with her team and VODA staff; and folding over 100 pieces of origami, carefully penning each one with an inspiring quote inside for people to open up and enjoy.

Keen to learn more about local organisations that support people with mental health issues, Hannah has researched existing services extensively. She chose to promote the work of Launchpad North Tyneside through her social media and website channels, and has used the platform as a way of engaging more people online in a conversation about mental health. In October, Launchpad invited Hannah to take part in North Tyneside World Mental Health Day and to host an #iwill Unfold stand at a large-scale event. Feedback from the day was fantastic by all who spoke to Hannah about, and she was brimming with confidence after being given the opportunity.

Hannah said: “I think that the campaign has helped people, it has got people talking. Especially at the World Mental Health Day event, people kept saying it was a good idea and were happy to have their picture taken for our campaign. It’s made people smile, and that’s helping people in my eyes.”

When asked about her proudest moment during her campaign development, Hannah was particularly thrilled to have over 116 likes on social media without having to use any paid promotional tools. Hannah continued: “Loads of people have seen our campaign online, it’s kind of mind blowing to see that on some posts over 300 people have been reached.”

In her own words, Hannah ‘never thought’ she’d be able to develop a website and was apprehensive at first about taking on such a big task as part of the campaign.  “I check the social media every single day, and reply to messages, because I care about it and it is our project and always has been.  I am dedicated to making sure it’s successful. I’ve built an entire website, even though I’ve never done it before. The #iwill workshop around web design with Pete Maughan helped me loads. I’ve done everything on the website now, there’s no way I thought I’d be able to do that. I’ve loved being able to blog on there and make it really personal, sharing my tone of voice in the writing and blog about topics I care about.”

When asked what she saw the future of #iwill Unfold, Hannah said: “I would like to get more people to share their stories with us, and open up more about mental health. If we can start getting some stories on our website then it might encourage more people to share with us. I’d like to start getting out and about with the origami and putting it into local places like the library. I want to think of lots more ideas on how we can improve the campaign and develop them.

I would also love to make a short film about #iwill Unfold and to do some public speaking workshops so I feel more confident when I’m out and about with the campaign. We’re also planning to visit local groups including Creative Minds to find out about what they do, gather some stories and show their users how to fold positive message origami.”

Visit www.iwillunfold.com or Facebook for more information about the campaign.

If you work with a group of young people who are passionate about creating change in North Tyneside though digital media then please get in touch with Josie Robinson at VODA.

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