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Working their way back by volunteering

Ealing Council is funding a project helping people with long-term health conditions improve their lives through volunteering. You may be surprised by some of the lesser known benefits it can bring.

Volunteers play a crucial and often under-appreciated role in our local communities.

All of us have at some point benefited from those who give up their time for free, whether it was at our favourite charity shop or at a local community event.

Perhaps less well known are the health benefits that come with volunteering. There is now good evidence to suggest that volunteering can help improve self-esteem, wellbeing and social engagement skills. Research suggests that the benefits for older people or those with long-term health conditions may be even more pronounced. These volunteers appear to experience less depression and improved mental wellbeing.

Help tailored to you

Ealing Community and Voluntary Service (Ealing CVS) has been funded by the council to provide a volunteering service specifically tailored to help

Volunteering has benefits for health
Volunteering has benefits for health

those coping with various long-term health conditions.

Staff from Ealing CVS meet with potential volunteers to discuss and advise them on what kind of volunteering might be most suitable given their individual health conditions.

Once agreed, they then embark on an initial 12-week volunteering role and keep in close contact with Ealing CVS during that time.

It has helped numerous people with long-term health conditions grow in confidence and increase their self-esteem.

Samantha Stotland, Ealing CVS volunteer centre manager, said: “Our volunteers tell us the experience has improved how they feel, given structure to their lives, widened their social networks, and helped gain access to further education, training and paid employment.”

The project has helped people with many different health conditions, ranging from difficulty standing and walking, to visual mpairment, anxiety and speech difficulties. One participant who suffered memory loss because of a brain tumour volunteered as an IT support assistant and subsequently went on to get a paid job.

‘It was quite frightening and debilitating’
Recent volunteers found opportunities in IT support, data entry, retail and advisory services
Recent volunteers found opportunities in IT support, data entry, retail and advisory services

In 2007 local resident Amiir* was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia – a long-term mental health condition that causes a range of different psychological symptoms.

Amiir previously worked in a customer service role for a large high street fashion retailer in central London. Amiir was kind enough to speak to Around Ealing about his experience.

He said: “I had not been in paid work since 2007 because of my illness, which was quite frightening and debilitating. However, I’m now volunteering in the public sector and have a public-facing role dealing with requests and enquiries. I’m really enjoying the work and my manager is very pleased with how I’ve progressed. I keep a diary of my experiences and what I’ve achieved, which I find very useful.
“I’d now like to move back into paid work and gain more independence. I’m confident my volunteer role has given me the skills, experience and, most of all, confidence, to make that move soon.”

‘Many options available’

Councillor Hitesh Tailor, the council’s cabinet member for health and adult services, said: “If you have been affected by a long-term health condition, volunteering could play an important part in your recovery. The range of activities is varied, with recent volunteers finding opportunities in retail, data entry, IT support and advisory services. There are many more options available and they do not all require giving up an entire day.

“This excellent programme is transforming lives. The participants are inspiring and many had previously been unemployed or socially isolated for several years. Whether you have a health condition or not, volunteering can make a big difference to your community and your own health and wellbeing.”

More information

If you are interested in finding out more about the volunteer programme, or if your business might be able to offer a placement, contact Samantha Stotland at samantha@ealingcvs.org.uk or call 020 8280 2230.

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