VOLUNTEERING & COMMUNITY
Enabling the most isolated and socially excluded to connect to their communities
Many people with complex health and/ or
social problems can feel excluded from
society or subject to stigma. We improve the
health and wellbeing of people often
described as ‘service users’; people with
substance misuse issues, serious and
complex mental health issues, ex-offenders,
homeless people, long-term unemployed
and people with long-term health conditions,
people who have generally received support
from statutory services over a long period.
After years in the system, people can begin
to lose hope of recovery, often become
isolated from friends or family who may feel
disappointed in their lack of change. They
may have tried volunteering before but not been able to sustain this due to fluctuating health, chaotic lifestyle or low mood and motivation.
Our programme is different.
We transform the paradigm of ‘service user’, recruiting, coaching, training and supporting people to join a team giving something back, helping others and delivering services and support in the community. Focused on improving the lives of the most isolated and frail older people, generally housebound or very isolated and lonely, by visiting their homes and helping maintain their property and garden, reducing stress and giving them a sense of pride in their homes again. Our clients say ‘‘I love my garden and flowers and I was really getting depressed by the state of it. Thank you!” and ‘I am so happy to have the team come to me. I really don’t know what I would do without their support. I have no family so they have become family to me’. We are able to help around 100 clients a year, and often our volunteers have never received such positive and warm feedback for anything they have achieved.
For the volunteers, a sense of camaraderie, of purpose and pride builds as they prove to themselves and others that they can do something of value and meaning. The physical, practical nature of the project- volunteers meet, travel together to the client’s home and work together clearing their garden or re-decorating- ensures a sense of accomplishment and physical activity; improving mood and aiding sleep. Volunteers work in small groups of 3-5 people and are always supported and supervised by our specialist Project Worker, a skilled handyperson and gardener with expertise in supporting vulnerable people. Together they complete the task at the client’s home- clearing a garden, redecorating a living room, whatever is needed for the client to feel safe and comfortable at home. There is always time for tea and a chat; for friendships to build and problems shared. Our volunteers say;
• I’ve learnt new skills and refreshed old ones, I like helping others and its good for my mental health
• It has reduced my anxiety and my isolation, I feel part of a team and have learnt new skills.
• I felt transformed last week after helping. It must be the release of endorphins or something, I felt really good!
For those who prefer creative activities, we offer weekly art and craft groups in a welcoming and accessible ‘hub’ in Maidstone Mall, or our workshop at Maidstone Community Support Centre. We also have a community allotment, so that people can enjoy growing fruit and vegetables together, learning about horticulture, meeting likeminded others and producing healthy food which is shared with vulnerable people in need. Alongside these practical group activities, we provide a voice for people who have used mental health services, ensuring their views are sought and shared with policy makers, commissioners and service managers, helping them feel valued and using their expertise to improve services for others.
We typically work with between 50-100 people per year in the Maidstone and Malling area, and our approach is person centred, working with the person to understand their lifestyle, issues, strengths and goals and designing a progression plan for them working in the community alongside others to achieve this.
We can typically offer;
Supported volunteering – with supervised opportunities in gardening, DIY, decorating, administration, befriending; an opportunity to give back, help others and make a difference
Training – both practical and for personal development e.g IT, health and safety, mindfulness (working in partnership with Kent Adult Education)
Information, advice and guidance to support progression into further volunteering, paid work or training/education with our partners to achieve life goals
Specialist advice and support, such as suicide prevention activities and training
Peer support, social activities, visits, groups, trips; eg Kent Garden show- all designed to help people connect with others, share life experience, learn new things and feel part of a team
Workshop, allotment and creative activities
Multicultural forum and ladies group to promote community cohesion and reduce isolation- weekly coffee morning and regular events with lots of useful information shared and new friendships made
Opportunities to attend events and meetings about mental health services; to give feedback and use personal experience of services to change and improve them
The programme is funded by a wide range of Trusts, Foundations, businesses and partners.
If you or someone you are supporting could benefit from getting more involved in the community, giving something back and meeting others but not feeling ready for mainstream volunteering, please contact us.
One Volunteer's Story
George is a 46 year old male, long term unemployed with a previous drug addiction (10 years) and serious mental health condition.
George found out about Involve when he was volunteering at another organisation. He liked the sound of doing gardening and DIY and joined the team. George has a long history of mental health conditions, predominantly schizophrenia which presents with psychotic symptoms. Though his condition still presents, George says that volunteering helps him to manage day to day life and that if he wasn’t volunteering he would sit at home all day every day, resulting in poor mental health.
George enjoys the camaraderie of volunteering with other volunteers who are in a similar situation to himself and has formed many friendships through volunteering. He also enjoys helping those in the community who have ‘had a tough time’. He recalls that one of his favourite moments was helping a couple whose garden was completely overgrown, and neither one could maintain it due to poor physical and mental health. The team were able to completely clear the garden and he felt humbled when the gentleman thanked him for making the garden useable again – a small action for some but this made a big impact to the couple in their home.
George benefits from the routine that is formed through volunteering, this along with walking his dog brings him structure to his week. He has enjoyed attending the volunteer socials and has attended the events frequently.