Thursday, 3 June 2010

Any volunteers for Wisbech?

It's Volunteers Week this week, and to mark the event, Volunteer Centre Fenland hosted an event at the Boathouse Business Centre in Wisbech this morning to celebrate volunteers and volunteering, and recognise the organisations in the area that promote and support volunteers.

During the recent General Election campaign, I signed the Volunteering Pledge (on the last page of the Volunteering Manifesto. As a result, Annette Houghton from Volunteer Centre Fenland invited me to today's event, where I met some of the many organisations working in and around Wisbech.

Amanda Scott from Excelcare was there to promote volunteering at Glennfield Care Centre in Moneybank, where she is the activities coordinator. There's a lively programme of activities ranging from art to Cockney sing-alongs, and volunteers are always appreciated to help with activities or practical projects like gardening. The telephone number for Glennfield is 01945 581141.

I picked up some information from Age Concern Cambridgeshire, who in addition to their many ongoing voluntary activities such as their Visiting Scheme are promoting a two-year pilot scheme funded by Comic Relief. This scheme, run by Age Concern Cambridgeshire with Action on Elder Abuse and the Cambridgeshire 'Safeguarding Adults' team, is called Survivors and provides mature volunteers to help older who have gone though the dreadful experience of elder abuse. If you have experienced abuse as an older person, know someone who has, or are interested in volunteering, contact scheme organiser Dee Potter on 0845 521 3481 or email her.

Cambridgeshire County Council's locality team was at the event, and I spoke with Parent Support Adviser Cheryl Brook, Sue Clark from Sure Start and Laura who works with 13-19 year olds. Volunteering is a great way for some young people to start out into the world of work and gain valuable experience, as well as for mums returning to the workforce after having their children. An eight-week parenting course has just begun at Wisbech South Children's Centre in Elizabeth Terrace, where there's also masses of other activities. They're also running new quarterly 'parent forums' - the first one is next Wednesday, 9 June, at 4:00pm. (It's free and there are refreshments!).

Like Sure Start, the Citizens Advice Bureau is an organisation I'm also familiar with from my involvement with them elsewhere in the country. I spoke with deputy manager Julie Smith, who told me that the CAB is looking for volunteer advisers to help residents with their queries and concerns. This is a very structured way to volunteer, with a national standard package of training advisers need to complete first - but is immensely rewarding for the volunteer and the local community. The Fenland CAB is also looking for volunteer receptionists and trustees.

Cambridgeshire Libraries runs a Doorstep Service with the help of volunteer Library Visitors. The Visitors choose and deliver books for residents who are housebound, either permanently or temporarily. It's a great way to meet people and share your love of books and reading. If you're interested in volunteering (or need to us the service) contact the Area Doorstep Coordinator for Fenland on 01354 754766. As for library services more widely, there's also a Community Launch at Wisbech Library in Ely Place on Saturday 19 June from 10:00 to 4:30. And coffee mornings once a month from 11:00 to 12:30 with guest speakers - the next ones are on 24 June and 29 July.

TNG were also there. They work in partnership with Jobcentre Plus supporting people including carers and lone parents in preparing for work, through jobsearch facilities, training, work experience and building confidence and skills.

It was good to talk with Penny Duce from IndependentAge about the work their volunteers do - visiting older people, telephoning, running local fundraising events and giving talks about the charity's work. I also came away with a leaflet for The Thrifty Kitchen book of wartime recipes, and an invitation to a concert evening with the Taverham Brass Band (Saturday 13 November, 7:00 for 7:30 pm, John Innes Conference Centre, Norwich, £8 per ticket if you're interested - call 01603 745503)! Penny also has other interests - she asked me to promote the KIT Club in Wisbech, which she's also involved with; I'll do that separately as it's also a very good cause.

Karen Day is the new Dementia Adviser for the Alzheimer's Society in Fenland and Marshland. Dementia Advisers provide information and support for people diagnosed with Alzheimer's. In addition to national services like the Alzheimer's helpline (0845 3000 336) there are also local activities such as the Wisbech Lunch Club for carers and the people they care for with dementia (contact Pam Freer on 01945 461805) and the monthly Thursday support group for carers looking after people with dementia.

Finally, I spoke with Jayde Thompson-Watkinson from the Community House in Waterlees. The Community House offers some great facilities to this part of Wisbech, and is looking for volunteers to help it continue its work.

I'm a huge fan of the voluntary sector and volunteering, and it's great to see so much going on in this part of North East Cambridgeshire.

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