Thursday, 30 September 2010

Adur Voluntary Action

Hello and welcome to my blog. It's lovely to see you again and I hope you've had a great fortnight.

I had hoped to write, "a great week," but I've foolishly spent the last 7 days trying to maintain order during our kitchen re-fit. Pointless, totally pointless. So I'm back in the study and the broom's backed into a corner.

Before the house became a campsite, I had a thought-provoking meeting with Keri Hamblin, Centre Manager for Adur Voluntary Action, (AVA). Up until then I was unaware that Adur is poorer than much of West Sussex; in 2007, 14% of the area was ranked in the lowest 20% in England for deprivation; the proportion of residents whose qualifications are below NVQ level 2 is well below national average; there is a highish suicide rate amongst older men and many of our older residents find independent living a challenge for practical reasons such as transport, shopping, house and garden maintenance and isolation. (source: Adur Voluntary Action Development Plan 2010-13.)

On the upside, there is a strong sense of local community with over 400 registered voluntary organisations in Adur, some of which respond to the needs underlying those statistics.

Whilst AVA does not have them all on its' register, it does help hundreds of small voluntary organisations with very limited resources.

AVA is a registered charity and limited company which succeeded Adur Council for Voluntary Service. It is funded by West Sussex County Council, Adur District Council and covers Shoreham, Lancing, Fishergate, Southwick, Sompting and Kingston-on-Sea.

Margaret Riddell, Keri Hamblin (second from left), Karen Lewis, and Peter Upton (Homefront).

Its' primary function is to act as an information point for voluntary organisations and volunteers saving organisations the costs of recruiting, and volunteers the time to find something suitable.

AVA's services are generally free and it has a broad reach. It has an internet presence; can be contacted or visited in person; attends outreach projects and gets into the community. Indeed Keith Phelps, Head Launcher and Lifeboat Visits Officer at Shoreham Lifeboat, used them for the first time recently because, "People don't necessarily look at the website or drop into the station to ask if they could help." With the help of a poster campaign and AVA, they now have a compliment of guides waiting to start when the new Station opens. Pat Marshall, a Senior Contact Officer from 4SIGHT is a regular client and says "some of the best and most consistent volunteers have come through AVA."

That's exactly what Keri wants yet she will never turn people away, and does not discriminate against anyone, be they professionals, unemployed, retired, disabled, or mentally ill.

There is no upper age limit, but increased regulation has reduced the number of opportunities available for those under 16. She finds this frustrating as, during the summer holidays, they are often approached by school children offering to help.

That aside, Keri cannot imagine someone coming in and not being able to find something suitable. That's understandable considering the variety of opportunities they have on their books. Here are just a few advertised this summer:

AB625 Companion to help ease isolation and provide friendship and support to an elderly person

AB630 Allotment volunteer needed one or two days a week to head and co-ordinate allotment and some gardening with a small group of adults with mental illnesses

AB377 Box Collector to spare 3-4 hours every 4-6 months to empty charity collection boxes in shops, pubs and local businesses

AB43 Befriender to a disadvantaged child (4-16) for at least 2 hours per week over 2 years to help build their self-esteem, confidence and introduce them to new interests and opportunities. Weekend visits preferred.

AB631 Dog Walker for Cinnamon Trust a charity for the elderly, terminally ill and their pets.

AB651 Big Yellow Bus Driver

AB239 Qualified electrician needed to test electrical equipment sold through Adur Furniture Network

AB328 Prince's Trust Mentor to keep young people motivated after completion of their training programme.

AB388 Guides for Historic House Tours needed from 1st April to mid-October

AB624 Helping disabled people enjoy sailing by rigging, launching, recovering, washing, putting away boats and assisting disabled people in and out of boats

AB301 Visit and befriend a visually impaired person in their home, to assist with reading, accompanying on journeys and most importantly simply having a cup of tea and a chat. Time commitment 1 hour

AB57 Home visitor for Home Start to offer regular support, friendship and practical help to young families under stress in their own home helping to prevent family crisis and breakdown.

AB18 Answering helpline calls from women sexually abused in childhood, giving support and information.

AB502 Readers needed to read local news for audio tapes on an occasional basis.

If this inspires you to volunteer then please contact AVA and have a chat. One word of caution though, due to the nature of some of the vacancies, it can take up to 6 months to complete all the checks so please be patient. Alternatively, one could always volunteer for something else in the meantime as, "your time and effort will matter to someone, whatever you choose."

Next week I'll be changing gear with a series of "a life in the day of" blogs featuring some prominent beach residents. First will be Cllr Liza McKinney, one of our most long-standing Ward Councillors.

Ta-ra for now and have a great week.

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