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Volunteering in Health

Can you spare an hour a week?

Volunteers urgently needed!

Volunteering in Health is a small local independent charity based in Teignmouth, Devon.  We rely on volunteers to support our elderly, isolated and vulnerable people in the community. We provide a very wide range of services including driving people to medical appointments, befriending, shopping, benefits advice, memory cafes, carers meetings, coffee mornings, hospital volunteering – the list goes on and on. You name it we do it to help support and improve people’s quality of life.

Volunteering in Health are calling for people to volunteer in their community, for just an hour a week. Tina Graham, Manager, said “We are desperate for people to join us in a variety of roles. An hour a week can make all the difference to someone’s life. We pay all expenses which covers the cost of running a car. Everyone has something they can give – with the range of services we provide we urgently need new volunteers especially for driving and befriending. With the winter approaching and the dark nights drawing in, many people will not see anybody from one week to the next.”

Claire joined as a volunteer and offers befriending to Edna.  She said “I moved to Teignmouth in October 2011 and, being new to the area and not in employment, I wanted to get involved in my new community.  I was introduced to Edna who I have been visiting for around 18 months for an hour or two a week which fits easily in around my work schedule and other commitments.  Edna, like many people in Teignmouth, had periods through the week where she was lonely and didn’t see anybody and I am glad to be able to make a difference in that regard. We sometimes sit and just chat and have a cuppa and a biscuit, some days we will make cards, something Edna struggles to do on her own these days”.  Edna, 93, said “I really enjoy seeing Claire and look forward to the visit every week. If she didn’t come round I wouldn’t see anyone at all.  It is difficult for me to get out and about, but with Claire`s help she makes that possible.  It’s a real treat”

Malcolm has been a volunteer driver for 3 years “My specific contribution to volunteering is driving people to medical appointments.  Mileage expenses cover my fuel costs and are a significant contribution towards running my car. The patient benefits as they have a one to one service as we often stay with patients therefore we are able to bring them straight home at the end of their appointment without any waiting around.  It is a win-win situation.  I can work the hours that suit me and use my experience of life to help others through what sometimes is a very stressful situation.”

Tina Graham added that “We can always find a way to use a willing volunteer.  We need people to help fundraise, the list goes on!  Do not be shy in coming forward.  You will be made to feel very welcome and will be very much appreciated.  Training will be given and volunteering can be a first step towards paid employment.”

If you feel you can help or want to find out more, please contact Tina Graham, Manager, on 01626 774484 or email tina.graham@nhs.net

For more information, visit www.volunteeringinhealth.co.uk.

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Merry Christmas!

Hope you had an amazing Christmas!!  It was our first in a house with lovely big fireplaces, so we were able to really get into the Father Christmas thing!!

Here in Devon, a few towns have the unusual tradition of getting locals in fancy dress to run into the sea on either Christmas or Boxing Day.  I didn’t brave it this year, but did it for the first time last year – here’s a picture!

boxingday

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A jobsearching Mum’s story

Looking for work can be really tough, looking for flexible employment that fits around school hours and holidays can be even harder, as the jobs that do come up are in such high demand.  Below is the very honest account of a Mum who has fled her previous life to start afresh with her child in a new area, she has kindly shared her story with us.  We are working with her to find the right solution for her, and we will hopefully be updating this story soon with a happy ending!

I married for love some years ago to a man my age but of a different colour and culture. I took on his religion and a new name to go with it. Things were good to begin with, but things slowly changed, so slowly I did not see it coming. The control and my life diminishing apart from work and home, nothing else. I had a child and things got worse. Me as a person was gone. I was a full time worker and any other time I was Mum. No “me time”, no free time, no nights out and I let this go on for about two years. I was getting more and more in debt thanks to him. Life at home was awful, so miserable, I got very bad depression and was signed off work for two months. My child and I were suffering, weeks of silence in the house, one living upstairs and one downstairs, the child torn between the two.

There came a night when things came to a head and 8 weeks of not talking was broken by a dreadful argument and wrestling match. Things did not change and there was no acknowledgement of any problems in the marriage. I decided I had to take action for my child’s sake and my own.

My husbands culture meant that his friends would “report” back on me if they saw me out, so to leave him, I had to move away. Far away. I planned everything for when he was out the country, managed to pack some stuff into a friends garage and pack clothes, but everything else was left. I walked away from my home, my car, my friends, my job of eleven years and started again.

We moved into a women’s refuge for four months hundreds of miles away from what I knew. Then we got a house of our own. We started to build a new life for ourselves. I filled the house with charity furniture and other people’s generosity, my child started school and it was hard at first, I had to walk away listening to the screams.

Then my child turned 5 and suddenly I HAVE to find work. But now things are so much harder. I have no car, so rely on public transport to get anywhere. I hardly know anyone here so do not have a reliable source of child care. So I need part time work, that fits in the school opening hours, close by for transport.

Yet everyone thinks it sounds easy to get a job. “There is loads out there” is what I hear them say. There are jobs out there, but there are also lots of people applying for them. I have applied for over 60 jobs so far. And most of them you don’t hear a word back from. No acknowledgment at all. It is so demoralising, soul destroying. I have applied for jobs that I could do with my eyes shut but maybe I am overlooked in the volume of applicants. Also as I have a foreign name, there is the chance I am discounted as maybe I am seen as not having English as a first language.

I have had full time jobs pointed out to me by the job centre. I have no problem personally working full time, but what about my child? After what they have been through, how fair is it to put them in breakfast club AND after school club? That would be from 8am to
maybe 6pm every day, so 10 hours a day, 5 days a week in school. Is that fair?

I understand the culture of getting people in work and helping mums back to work. But the job centre and the government just see numbers, they do not see individuals. I am so scared that I am going to be worse off financially. They do not understand my worries. And they do little to help with them. I still do not know if I will lose my child’s free school meals. How much I can earn before my housing benefit is affected. Will I have to pay the council tax? But all they see when they look at me is another number on the unemployed list. I will have to pay transport costs. Possibly child care costs. Tax credits pay 70% of the cost of child care, but I pay 30%, how am I going to afford that? And what about school holidays? Six weeks of child care?

And then there is the stigma to live with, of being “unemployed”. One man told me I should be in the gutter for not feeling guilty for being unemployed. Until I pointed out to him that I am out of work because I had to run away from an abusive marriage so had to leave my job.

I am not stupid, I can write my own CV, my own letters, I don’t need a job club. I just need for them to keep off my back and let me get on with it. If they want proof of my applications, I can provide it. Stop making me come in for meetings. There is nothing to gain, every time they just tell me that I am doing everything I can….I already know that! I want to work, I need to work, I need to get out and mix with people and keep busy, some people think I enjoy not working. I DON’T.

I have had the depression now for nearly 3 years and still on the medication, recently it has been bad. And the job searching is not
helping me. How can I keep up the enthusiasm to apply when all I get is rejection or just plain silence? I have come close to asking the doctors for help. Asking them to “sign me off”, take away the pressure the job centre is putting on me.

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Flexi-Mum on Facebook

Through the Flexi-Mum project, we hope to inspire you, to build your confidence, and to help you get closer to the perfect work-life balance.  One way in which we think this works best, is through you speaking to each other, sharing your worries and experiences and supporting each other through difficult and exciting times.  Please join our Flexi-Mum group on Facebook to be a part of this.  Everyone we meet has an inspirational story to tell – whether it’s dealing with the difficulties of starting a family and coming through it, or starting your own business.  Just having the opportunity to speak to someone who is a month or two behind where you are can really support them coming forward, and give you a boost in the process!

One of the first Mums we met with the project was still on maternity leave.  She was really worried about settling her daughter into nursery so that she could return to work.  This is a completely normal concern that most of us go through at some point, but few of us actually get any real support with.  A group of Mums that I met recently described it as a “black cloud” hovering over their maternity leave.  Having a group like this on Facebook gives you an opportunity to express your worries and know that you’re not alone.

And, of course, if you would like additional support from our advisors, please call us on 0800 043 2440, or access our Virtual Services.

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Tips for Guest Posts

We are always looking for people to feature on the blog, so if you have a business to promote; want to share an inspirational story; have a great work-life balance tip; or just want to have a go at blogging, please get in touch on 0800 043 2440 or email cmathers@opsw.co.uk

Here are a few tips to get you started.  Your post can be on any subject – it could be your work-life balance story, a parenting tip, an interview or feature with a business or group that you have used, whatever you like.

Your blog post should be written in everyday language and be easy to read.  Write it in the first person: it’s your story, your opinions, and/or your business.

To encourage people to interact and comment on your post, you might want to add a call to action at the end of the post (for example: “has this post motivated you?”, “what do you think of….?”, find out more about …. on their facebook page).

Please send us some photos to brighten up the blog – if you have a business it could be some of your products, of it might be a photo of yourself and your kids, whatever you feel is relevant.

Tell us a bit about yourself.  This might be included within the post, or as a seperate “bio”, for example “Phillipa is 43 and lives in Taunton with her husband and six children.  After seventeen years of working in retail she has now decided to open her own shop.”

If you don’t know where to start, we can send you some questions for an interview style post, or just to use as inspiration.

When you’ve written your post, read it through and edit it to make it short and sweet and check for any spelling errors.  Is this something you would want to read?  There’s no set length for a blog post, and your can make it as long or short as you like, but we suggest aiming for around 400 words.

If you want us to publish your post at a certain time (for example to tie in with the launch of your website or a special offer) please let us know.

Lastly, remember that this is going to be posted and shared online.  So if you or anyone mentioned in your post wants to remain anonymous – don’t tell us who they are!

We look forward to hearing what you have got to say!

 

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Meet your writer

Chloe Mathers

I’m Chloe Myers and I have two gorgeous boys – Oscar (nearly 4) and Charlie (18 months).  After having Oscar, I returned to my previous job after maternity leave, but was then made redundant whilst pregnant with Charlie.  I decided to start my own business, Gosling Baby Slings, as I was aware that finding suitable part time work would be difficult with two young children!  I also trained as a breastfeeding peer supporter and started volunteering at my local Sure Start centre.  I approached Opportunity Plus South West for support with my business, and a few months later, applied for a job with them when one came up.  I have been working here since July 2012.  I hope that my range of experiences as a working Mum will help me to support other Mums, whatever their choices are.

 

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