BOB JOPE: Commitment of volunteers in Bay
AS recent dramatic headlines have testified, and as commentators from just about every angle are reminding us, 2013, with still more public sector cuts on the immediate horizon, is likely to prove a tough year economically for many in the UK, and certainly for many of us here in the Bay. That said, one of the things I've been struck by in the year and a half I've lived here — moving from London in 2011 — is the energy and commitment displayed by a really wide range of individuals and voluntary organisations determined to make life better for others.
That range takes in the likes of Norman MacNamara whose campaign to make Torbay the world's first 'dementia friendly' location has had, as this newspaper recently highlighted, a huge impact in its very first year.
I've had the privilege of being on the steering group for Norrm's Torbay Dementia Action Alliance and have been continually amazed at his sense of purpose, his seemingly tireless drive, sustained by the dedication of his wife, Elaine: 2013 will see still more achieved as TDAA takes its message into schools, for example, and plans ahead for September's third Dementia Action Day.
Comparably, Peter Hosking, chairman of Paignton Prostate Support Association, works endlessly for his cause — in essence, raising awareness — work that won him a highly prestigious Queen's Award for service in the community, as we reported last year.
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On our local community radio station, Riviera FM, Cathy — another CVA Torbay volunteer — and I get the chance, as we've reported before, to actually meet with representatives of Torbay's voluntary sector, and it's been an inspiring experience hearing what they do and discovering just how much help they're offering across the Bay.
Over the last few months during Community Hour on Wednesday mornings, we've heard from a tremendous variety of groups dedicated to making others' lives that bit easier, from Torbay Hospital's 'lunchtime companions' project aimed at making mealtimes a friendlier, sociable experience for the elderly, to Crossroads Care which supports carers themselves with help and advice, from Brixham's swashbuckling Buccaneers to its vibrant Fishstock Festival.
We've heard, too, about the exciting opportunities on offer at the beautiful Lupton House — as well as attending an evening there with psychic medium Nicky Alan — and about the fantastic fundraising efforts of Rowcroft Hospice, as well as the support on offer to life's sometimes desperate victims from drop-in centres like Torquay's Cool House or The Haven in Paignton.
Across the Bay, then, there are people who voluntarily dedicate much of their time and energy to improving life in their community: Torquay's 'Hand in Hand' at the Windmill Centre, 'Eat that Frog' in Paignton… the list goes on, but talking with people working in the ever-busy voluntary sector we're again and again reminded of two things very much required by most: more funding, of course — donations to voluntary groups and charities having dropped by an alarming 20 per cent over the past year — and, crucially, still more volunteers, particularly so in the light of the drastic cuts in public sector spending alluded to above, and the subject of much debate in our letters' columns.
The variety of help needed is really wide both within each organisation (Dartsailability talked about that a few weeks back, stressing the range of tasks their volunteers can undertake, from sailing itself to maintenance work on land) and across the Bay. So, given too that the health benefits to volunteers themselves has long been proven, why not take the New Year as a perfect opportunity to get involved? As I've discovered over the past year, it's a wonderful way of getting to meet people, too, and gives you the chance to make use of skills you may not even have known you had.
Healthful and fun, recalling a recent Herald Express article, volunteering could be part of your own LoveLIFE campaign!
As Rowan Williams said recently, the success of the Olympics volunteers reminds us of those who 'often invisibly' make things happen, and of that 'steady current of generosity that underlies so much of our life together'. We should ask, he said, 'what can I do to join this silent conspiracy of generous dedication'? One way to find out how you can join it is call us at CVA on 01803 212638 or log on to firstname.lastname@example.org