Many Reading people are still not going out through fear of catching Covid-19, even if they have been vaccinated, and may have lost their confidence and previous social connections. A phone call or a visit from someone can make all the difference, and can be the stepping stone for someone to get out and about on their own.
Reading Voluntary Action (RVA) has launched a town wide campaign to help local community groups recruit volunteers who can chat, connect and befriend the rising number of people facing loneliness and social isolation in Reading.
Rhiannon Stocking-Williams, who runs RVA’s Ready Friends project, described local need as “the pandemic of loneliness which existed before Covid-19 and is now ten times worse, because of it.
“Reading is blessed with a whole range of community groups and charities who run befriending services, social groups, chatty cafes and events and who are looking for new volunteers in a number of rewarding roles such as befriending, connecting people with activities that may interest them, or simply having a chat in a café or social group.”
Volunteers will be offered an induction, training and regular support in their role and the ask could be as little as an hour a week. “Someone who is a good listener, non-judgmental and can empathise as well as encourage a person to reconnect, can be a life-changer for that person. It’s very powerful and rewarding”, adds Rhiannon.
Demand for support is rapidly increasing, and there is a particular demand for volunteers who speak Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic and Ukrainian. Community organisations such as Age UK, Enrych Berkshire, Engage, Me2 Club, Berkshire Vision and Support U (to name only a few!) need more volunteers, and are keen to hear from anyone wanting to make a difference to the lives of people facing loneliness and isolation.
“Finding out about opportunities to help is easy,” says Rhiannon. “Just go to our web page where you can request an appointment with one of our team or click on the superhero photo to browse the kind of volunteering opportunities that interest you. If you’re not online, just call RVA on 0118 937 2273”.