We look at an important community service in Sussex which helps people who are feeling isolated or lonely
One of the things that COVID-19 has highlighted for many people is the importance of good neighbours willing to help each other.
However, the Royal Voluntary Service recognised this some time ago, and for over six years has been running a ‘Good Neighbours’ scheme, funded by West Sussex County Council.
Paul Goff is Service Manager for the scheme covering Adur, Arun, Chichester and Worthing, with Helen Kirkham performing the same role covering Crawley, Horsham and Mid-Sussex.
Paul explained the idea is to help people re-engage with their local communities, by providing a volunteer for 12 weeks to support with making connections and reducing isolation.
Their band of volunteers range in age from 18-year-old college students to a retiree of 88, who still wants to help others, while the service users are mainly in the more senior age range too.
One of the recent additions to the team is Anne-Marie Taylor, who with her children at school, wanted to give something back to her community. She saw an advert for volunteers and applied at the beginning of the year.
She had just been approved and had a first, brief meeting with 84-year-old Jean Dennett, the service user she was going to visit, when lockdown interrupted.
“When I first spoke to Jean and asked her what she’d like to do, she wanted to have a fish and chip supper on the beach, but lockdown came along and spoiled our plans,” said Anne-Marie.
Instead, she chatted to Jean on the phone every week, sometimes for as long as an hour and a half, helping to relieve her feelings of boredom and isolation. Jean said she has greatly appreciated the service.
“Anne-Marie is an inspiration, that’s the word I would use. After I had the initial visit, I went to bed feeling that I was part of the world. She’s a diamond. I’ve got family, but they’re all scattered around. It is nice to talk to someone who understands me.”
Now that things are easing, Anne-Marie is hoping to make a garden visit to Jean, so they can continue their chats in person.
They’re even hoping to rearrange their fish and chip supper on the beach, eventually. “I don’t have grandparents, so this is a bit like adopting a granny!” joked Anne-Marie.
Both Anne-Marie and Jean clearly benefit from being involved with the service, so if you’ve got a couple of hours a week to spare and would like to help, get in touch. Good neighbours really matter.
For more information about the Good Neighbours scheme in the Adur, Arun, Chichester and Worthing districts, phone 01903 257019 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For Crawley, Horsham and Mid Sussex districts, phone 01293 228060 or email email@example.com