Volunteers build friendships across generations

Swindon Circles is looking for more volunteers to give up a small amount of their time to offer companionship to people in the community who feel lonely and isolated.

The programme, run by the Community Health and Wellbeing team at Swindon Borough Council, looks to combat loneliness by pairing clients up with volunteers.

The scheme currently has over 70 volunteers who support 90 people across Swindon, but the team are looking for more volunteers to join the project and to spread a little happiness through friendship.

After identifying an increasing number of people living in Swindon who do not have regular contact from friends, neighbours or family, the team have removed the age limits for clients referred into the service.

Volunteers tend to visit the person in their home and spend time with them to help them to feel less isolated and to create a lasting friendship. Some pairs may also go out for the day together, while others will chat on the phone to give the person someone to talk to, helping them to feel less alone.

Pairings are made based on the volunteer’s location and time they have available in order to keep the programme completely flexible for the volunteer. Individuals’ hobbies are also considered so that they can be paired up with someone who holds similar interests.

Many strong friendships have formed as a result of the project, including 98-year-old Olive and teenager Sophie Ashman. The pair meet regularly, and both enjoy being a part of this scheme.

Olive said: “Being visited by Sophie is great as we get on well. Last week, she pushed my wheelchair and took me for a lovely walk which I really enjoyed.”

Swindon Circles’ oldest volunteer, 91-year-old Baden Miller, who became a widow in 2012, uses volunteering as a means to keep himself busy. He said: “I feel very lucky to be able to get around at this age so I like to help out when I can. I find volunteering very worthwhile, and I wish I was younger so I could do a lot more!”

All volunteers who join Swindon Circles have access to training and volunteering events and are supported by the Community Health and Wellbeing team.

Cllr Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults’ Health and Social Care, said: “Not only do the people involved in Swindon Circles benefit from the friendships which are built, but so do the volunteers themselves. Giving up a short amount of time to help others provides a real sense of purpose while also boosting an individual’s self-esteem. I would encourage anyone who is interested in volunteering to find out more about this wonderful scheme.”

Anyone who would like more information about becoming a volunteer for Swindon Circles can attend a drop-in session which the team are running on the following dates:

  • Thursday, 24 August (10am-2pm), Morrisons Supermarket, Dorcan Way
  • Thursday, 31 August (12noon-2pm), Eldene Community Centre
  • Tuesday, 12 September (1pm-3pm), John Moulton Hall
  • Tuesday, 26 September (1pm-3pm),  John Moulton Hall
  • Wednesday, 13 September (12-2pm), Central Library
  • Friday, 22 September (12-2pm), Central Library

For more information, please call 01793 465513, email [email protected], or visit: www.swindon.gov.uk/healthandwellbeing