January 2018 Bury Free Press article

With the start of the New Year, many of us are looking to make changes in our lives. But it is often the way that some of the promises and resolutions people make are too big and therefore they have difficulty following through. These perceived failures can sometimes leave people feeling dejected and worse off than before they started the whole process.  Maybe, in this instance, a better way is to think small.  It is the small changes that can have the most profound impact on us and those around us.  And small changes are easier to carry out than big ones.  One of the best examples of this is volunteering.  When we are looking to make resolutions and enter into the spirit of the New Year, I can think of nothing better than the decision to give of ourselves and our time by volunteering. 

The beauty of volunteering is that we can decide how much time to devote to it and nothing is set in stone. When we are younger, the time we can devote to charitable activities is less, due to time constraints with work and family, but as we get older, it is then that we have a bit more time to give.  Volunteering offers help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community. The benefits of volunteering can be physical, mental and emotional.  It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose.  

Volunteering opportunities are everywhere, but an excellent place to start is Helpforce. Helpforce uses volunteers to improve the health and wellbeing of patients in the UK - volunteers giving their time to work with the NHS and community organisations. I love the NHS and think it does a brilliant job of looking after us throughout our lives, but with an elderly population and an ever-increasing demand for care, there is a need for volunteers to assist our dedicated and hardworking health care professionals. Helpforce volunteers perform a wide variety of tasks, such as helping with mobility issues of those who suffer muscle deterioration due to a long stay in hospital, helping with elderly patients who are at risk of falling or becoming confused or disorientated, and Helpforce volunteers are also on hand to help doctors and patients with tasks to speed up the discharge of patients from hospital. Helpforce prioritises volunteer help for patients who do not have their own family or wider support network. After a hugely successful Daily Mail campaign, the number of people signed up to volunteer with Helpforce increased by a third, rising by 33,000 in December alone.  Locally, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust is one of the 12 acute NHS Hospital Trusts working with Helpforce to develop new volunteer roles and create a best practice model for volunteering in hospitals and other patient settings. 

Helpforce is just one organisation, but there are thousands of others that rely on volunteers to carry out their vital work. A very good way of finding organisations near you to help with is to search locally.  Nearby, there is the Haverhill Association of Voluntary Organisations (HAVO), Community Action Suffolk 2or Volunteer Suffolk, to name just a few.  All of these groups will offer suggestions to find the right charity or group to fit the amount of time and the nature of your skills or expertise that you can offer in order to find the right match.  Or perhaps it is just a case of lending a helping hand to a friend or neighbour is having a difficult time of things. However you choose to do it, volunteering is a very good thing. I hope now that we are firmly into 2019, that you might find a volunteering opportunity – the benefits to you and those you will be helping are numerous.