Project to tackle loneliness

The launch of #iwill at Alnwick Castle.
The launch of #iwill at Alnwick Castle.

A national initiative to encourage more young people to volunteer in their own communities has been launched.

Initially, 15 students from Alnwick have been recruited by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to befriend residents at their local Weavers’ Court extra care scheme.

Young volunteers at the iwill project

Young volunteers at the iwill project

However, the initiative has hopes of recruiting more young volunteers from across Northumberland and North Tyneside, with plans to take on 200 of them by 2020.

The Duchess of Northumberland, who officially launched the scheme in the county, said: “It’s so important that young people are given opportunities to play a greater role in their own communities.

“I wholeheartedly support this scheme, which enables them to learn new skills and gain valuable experience in health and social care, both of which will stand them in good stead for the future.

“I wish the volunteers every success in their new roles and thank the trust and the project’s funders for setting this up.”

The project is funded by the Pears #iwill Fund, a partnership created by the Big Lottery Fund, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Pears Foundation.

It is designed to improve the health and wellbeing of older people in the county and support young people by improving skills through social action.

The Northumbria trust is one of 20 in the country to deliver the Pears project to help combat loneliness.

Jim Mackey, trust chief executive, said: “For many years our volunteers have added immeasurable value to our patients, our staff and our organisation as a whole, carrying out a wide range of roles in our hospitals.

“We’re delighted to branch out, for the first time, to enable young people living in Northumberland and North Tyneside to volunteer with older people in their own homes, in their own communities.

“With more and more older people feeling lonely, this is a hugely important inter-generational project, which will improve the health and wellbeing of older people while giving young people vital life skills.”

Following robust training, youngsters aged 16 to 18 will spend time with older people in their homes and give a helping hand around the house.

Ciara Healy, 17, who is one of the volunteers said: “I just want to help out in my community and make an older person’s day a little bit better.”