COMMUNITY Action Suffolk is the ‘go-to’ organisation for voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations in Suffolk. One crucial area of support is Good Neighbour Schemes.
During the lockdown of 2020, Good Neighbour Schemes across Suffolk not only helped vulnerable residents with shopping and collecting medicines, but with emotional wellbeing, too. For some groups, this meant setting up a telephone befriending service. For others, they wanted to take it even further.
A garden gate cuppa!
One resident was living on her own and desperately missing people. Speaking on the phone was nice, but she hadn’t seen a smile for some time, and this lack of face-to-face connection was beginning to have consequences for her emotional wellbeing.
Luckily, a Good Neighbour volunteer had an idea. The resident lived on the volunteer’s daily exercise route, so the volunteer suggested a socially distanced smile, wave and quick ‘hello’ from the garden gate to bolster their phone conversations. As time went on and lockdown rules relaxed, they began to share a socially distanced cup of tea and chat, with the volunteer carrying their Thermos of tea and the resident bringing a cuppa for herself to the front door. This was friendship over the garden gate – and it was just what was needed for them both!
Feeding the pheasants
Another resident in the same village described how upset she was that, due to shielding, the main road and a decline in eyesight, she was no longer able to go on her daily trip to feed the lovely local wild birds and a small bouquet of pheasants, who had been visiting for a friendly feed since they were young.
These wildlife encounters were very important to her, and she felt she was losing connection with the local wildlife that meant so much. Not only that, but she feared that the birds may not return to visit her again when she could resume the activity if feeding wasn’t kept up. She felt a connection and obligation to the birds and being unable to fulfil this worried her greatly.
To help alleviate the resident’s concerns, and to help maintain this connection with the wildlife so that visits could resume in future, a Good Neighbour stepped in and offered a little of their time every day to feed the birds and report back on progress. This small act of kindness helped to put the resident’s mind at rest and has allowed her to maintain a connection with something she loves dearly, even when living in lockdown isolation.
Volunteering and mental health
While the volunteers at Good Neighbour Schemes in Suffolk have had an enormous influence on the local residents, it’s clear that the volunteers have benefitted, too. One volunteer said that the sense of purpose and awareness of others helped them cope with their own mental health issues, while another commented that volunteering had given her the ‘motivation to get up and dressed throughout lockdown when at times I was tempted to crawl back under the covers for the day.’
Reflecting on what had happened, she added: ‘[the experience] made me see volunteering doesn’t have to take over your life, and sometimes just being supportive and a friendly voice on the end of the phone is enough. I hope my kids have also seen how people can pull together to help people less fortunate.’
In 2017, CAS received funding from the Big Lottery, now the National Lottery Community Fund, to increase the number of schemes in Suffolk and support those already operating around the county.
If you would like to join or set up a Good Neighbour Scheme, get in touch with email@example.com Please note that this is for Suffolk only.