Media Centre: News


Paper campaign finds 120 volunteers to befriend lonely

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A Norwich Evening News-backed campaign to find volunteer befrienders to help beat social isolation in the city has paid dividends with around 120 people coming forward in the last two years.

A Friend in Need was launched by Archant Norfolk’s Norwich Evening News and Voluntary Norfolk to beat social isolation in the city, and this month marks two years since the first group of volunteers got to work.

Linda Rogers, the charity’s head of operations, said: “Voluntary Norfolk has been recruiting volunteers to assist and befriend people who are lonely or vulnerable, for almost half a century, but in all that time we have rarely if ever seen a public response such as we have witnessed with the A Friend in Need campaign.

“In the two years since the sad death of Robert Reynolds prompted us to contact The Norwich Evening News about a joint recruitment campaign, around 120 readers have come forward to volunteer their services. Their time, compassion and enthusiasm have augmented the superb efforts of our existing volunteers and they are making a huge difference in our communities.”

A Friend in Need was named Community Campaign of the Year at the EDF East of England Regional Media Awards in 2013, in recognition of the way readers had responded with direct action to help others.

Despite the success of the campaign so far, more volunteers are needed to be paired with people across Norwich who could benefit from a regular visitor – starting with just two hours a week.

Tim Williams, managing editor of the Norwich Evening News, said: “We know and have seen first-hand what a positive influence volunteering can have on people’s lives.

“Our readers have reacted to the campaign with enthusiasm and generosity, but the need for help never goes away.

“In all parts of the city, there are people who can benefit from a regular visit from a community befriender. If you can spare the time, please get in touch with Voluntary Norfolk.”

Pictured above are a group of volunteer befrienders who began their training last September: Ingrida Melinaviciute, Laura Gambling, Rosie O'Toole, Naomi Stumpf, Akiko Kadota and Jonathan Ogwunte.

© Archant Ltd 2013