6 highlights of 2017 from RVA

6. Tilehurst Together

Launched in June, Tilehurst Together brings local people together to support each other, make new connections, and get involved in community life. There are now nearly 30 people who take part in fortnightly sessions and walks. One participant told us: ‘This scheme is wonderful – just what we need in society today – a real antidote to all the isolating online lives people lead’.

5. Get Online Reading

While Tilehurst Together is helping people to make connections away from their computers, Get Online Reading is there to assist anyone who doesn’t have the skills or opportunity to use the internet.

David Neale, the Development worker who leads this project, tells us about one of the visitors to the Central Library drop-in sessions this year: ‘Amma had been selected for a video job interview but only had access to a broken laptop and a smartphone that was too old to work with the mobile app for recording video. Get Online volunteers helped Amma to access the necessary equipment, make the video, and send it to her prospective employer. Amma told us that the employer was impressed with her video and she managed to get through two further interview stages. Although not successful this time, Amma is now feeling much more confident in making job applications, has learned a new skill, and is very grateful to the Get Online team for their help’.

4. Safeguarding Adults in Berkshire

This year has seen great progress in recognising the key role that voluntary, community and faith organisations have in safeguarding adults, reports our Partnership Manager Sarah Morland. In their draft strategy for 2018–21, the West of Berkshire Safeguarding Adults Board aim to strengthen communication and engagement with the sector and to share learning and develop innovative ways to support both paid and unpaid staff to build the effectiveness of everyone’s safeguarding practice.

3. Stronger Together Partnership

October saw the launch of the Stronger Together partnership, funded by The Big Lottery and the European Social Fund. Aimed at job seekers aged 25 and older in Reading and West Berkshire, Stronger Together offers free, tailored support to help people move closer to their volunteering, employment or self-employment goals. Thirteen local organisations have joined together to offer a whole range of services, from help with interview skills and outfits to childcare and transport. RVA’s Chief Executive Rachel Spencer said: ‘We are so excited to see this project go live!’. Find out more by visiting the project website or following @bbo_reading on Twitter.

2. Champions to End Loneliness

Have you seen our Champions to End Loneliness campaign? Since the summer it has been raising awareness about loneliness and social isolation through workshops, information stalls and social media. There are now 92 Champions who have pledged to take action to reduce loneliness in their neigbourhoods. And as a result of a workshop in Caversham, local residents have formed the Caversham Action on Loneliness group. The group meets monthly to promote local volunteering opportunities such as Caversham Good Neighbours and befriending schemes, roll out the Coffee Companions initiative, and develop a kindness pledge card that will be available in public locations such as the library and churches. Rachel Goater, the Development worker who leads on this campaign, said: ‘this group is thriving in Caversham. It’s a great model to encourage community action on loneliness and one that we hope to support to get started in other areas of Reading in 2018’.

To get involved, join us at our big conference, ‘Let’s Make Reading Friendlier’, on Wednesday 21 February 2018 or follow the campaign on Twitter, @Ready_Friends.

1. Reading Volunteer Awards

In June, RVA hosted the inaugural Reading Volunteer Awards. The night brought together over 140 members of the local community to celebrate the extraordinary contribution that volunteers and volunteering make to life in our town. Individual honours were given to 20 local volunteers and the work of 11 groups was highlighted. Our Volunteering Development Worker Steve Hendry said of the evening: ‘It was fantastic to see everyone having a good time and to have the opportunity to say a collective thanks to the volunteers who do so much to make our town the unique place it is’. Keep a look out in early January for details of how you can nominate your volunteer(s) for recognition in 2018.

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