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A Different Way to Help Others

hands  holding on to each other to create a circle

The Crich Wellness Network offers an alternative take on volunteering by David Ashton, Linda Philo and Andrea Kemp 

We usually associate volunteering with giving a fixed amount of time to help an organisation, whether it’s for a few hours, or even a day each week. The Crich Wellness Network provides a different, less time-consuming way of helping others. One of the ideas behind the project is to increase the flow of information between the various groups that currently provide help and support for older people, to make the provision more flexible and easier for the elderly to access. It means the groups involved talking more to each other – but it also means something more for the rest of us. 

The project is ideal for those who can’t ‘volunteer’ in the traditional form of offering time to a group, but want to help others in some way. It involves increasing awareness of the isolated people among our community and helping them form stronger relationships with others. For the volunteers, it may mean offering to do a neighbour’s shopping, or perhaps looking after their dog to enable them to go on a
trip; to help mend a fuse, or replace a lightbulb. These little acts of kindness help build relationships and, as those who are isolated build trust in neighbours and friends, they also build their own confidence, enabling them to enter new relationships with others. Once this happens, they experience a stronger sense of self-worth and can take steps to enhance their own wellbeing.

During this process of helping and building relationships, volunteers develop ideas about how better we can introduce change and improve the experience of those we are involved with. Some of these ideas may work, some may not. But by helping each other, we unlock new resources in the community which enable us to care more effectively for others, especially the lonely and isolated people, to increase their own confidence and wellbeing. At a talk to the Cubs about dementia, one young girl explained how she always waved to an elderly man in a nursing home as she passed by, and the staff there said that this meant a lot to him and he was always near the window to look out for her wave. Even such small acts can mean a huge amount for those who are isolated.

The Wellness Network aims to increase such acts in the community. This is not an idealist aim; it’s one that has been achieved effectively in a number of communities. How effectively we do it here
depends on each of us being aware of the needs of others around us and taking these initial small steps to help and support our neighbours – a new form of ‘volunteering’! 

To find out more about The Crich Wellness Network, contact Linda on linda@shift-together.co.uk