HELP NEEDED: Volunteers brainstorm on how to encourage more people to give their time  				      TM pic
HELP NEEDED: Volunteers brainstorm on how to encourage more people to give their time TM pic

WITHOUT volunteers many Teesdale-based organisations, groups and charities would not be able to function. But while many hundreds of people already give up their time and expertise for free, there is still a need for more people.

Volunteering, studies have shown, may not bring financial renumeration but it can benefit your health – both mentally and physically – improve your skills and confidence, and even increase your social circle.

Currently there is no one-stop shop where residents, can go to find out where their skills could be best put to good use. But that could be set to change, thanks to a round-table meeting organised by the award-winning charity Teesdale Day Clubs, which has been lauded for tackling social isolation in the dale and relies heavily upon its volunteers.

As part of an initiative to encourage more volunteers to get involved across Teesdale, representatives from a number of organisations have brought their heads together.

Rachel Dyne, from Teesdale YMCA, said: “There is no set description of a volunteer. There is a very wide breadth of roles needed – from drivers to helping with washing up. At the moment there is no one place for people to come together to find out what they want to do volunteer-wise and sometimes it can be difficult to find out information.”

One idea which is being explored is a Teesdale volunteer website, suggested by Teesdale Day Club’s chairman of trustees, Dr Peter Wood. Dr Wood, who started volunteering at the day clubs 17 years ago by helping to do the dishes, said: “There would be some sort of website where the needs of different organisations could be set out with the hours and responsibilities of specific roles – rather like a job website.”

Madeleine Walton, from the day clubs, said: “Word of mouth does work remarkably well and what we found is when we get new volunteers they usually bring along a friend and continue for years, but it is a question of getting to the wider audience.”

Ms Dyne added: “I think one of the things that we are finding is people are relying on older volunteers and we are not getting younger ones coming through.

“There is a shift in culture in them saying ‘what is in it for me?’ and we need to get over it is good for people and combats loneliness and can be good in building skills for jobs or for university.”

Hazel Rayner, from Help to Health, a patient transport co-ordinator, added: “Most of my drivers are actually there because they love the interaction with the patients they drive.”

Linda Bird, who volunteers at three different organisations including as a trustee for Abbeyfield, said: “We have got volunteers that just want to be friendly but we also have some trustees that have the necessary experience and who wanted a challenge. It’s not always about manual labour. It had more time I would probably volunteer more.”

Eileen Hayton, who volunteers with the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “I gave up teaching when I was 51 to look after my mother. However, after she died I didn’t have a purpose, until I saw an advert about volunteering and I went along for a look.

“In the 17 years since I have done just about every volunteer job available at the Alzheimer’s Society and I definitely have a purpose. I got my self worth back and I find it so rewarding. It has lifted my life to a different level.”

All agreed once volunteers “had dipped their toes in the water” they usually stay and even encourage friends to join them.

Dr Woods added the idea for a website would help “signpost” residents in the direction and could be a big advantage to all organisations involved, but it would require help – and volunteers to create and maintain.

He hopes the idea will spark the interest of tech-savvy residents who would be willing to lend their expertise in progressing the idea to the next stage.

Anyone who is interested should get in touch with Rachel Dyne on email