Voluntary Action South West Surrey wins Building Connections Big Lottery funding to help combat isolation and loneliness

VASWS Staff and Volunteers

Voluntary Action South West Surrey (VASWS) has been awarded a large grant from the Big Lottery Fund to help create a community hub in Guildford town centre. The new centre which will be called Community Point will help people find out about local activities that reduce and prevent isolation and loneliness.

The chief officer of Voluntary Action South West Surrey, Carol Dunnett, said: “Securing the Big Lottery Fund is fantastic for the community. We know from feedback and from other projects we run that there is a huge need for an easy, friendly accessible way to connect people to services.

“With this funding we will be able to offer support to a far wider range of people and the centre will be able to take referrals from a far greater range of agencies including Adult Social Care, GPs and other health professionals. People will also be able to self-refer.

“We are immensely proud to have been awarded this funding. It was a highly competitive process and to have been successful is a real endorsement of what we are trying to achieve.”

Isolation and loneliness is a serious issue in the UK that can severely affect mental wellbeing. A study by the Co-op and British Red Cross shows more than nine million people in the UK across all adult ages – more than the population of London – are either always or often lonely.

Thanks to funding from both Her Majesty’s Government and National Lottery players, the Big Lottery Fund will enable VASWS to help improve these issues, by building on its existing volunteer centre to become a recognised source of information in the community.

As a community hub, VASWS will have trained volunteer advisers who will engage with people who are experiencing isolation or loneliness explore activities they would like to do in the area, identify what is manageable for them and signpost activities and others that could help them if they are lacking confidence.

Those in need of advice can either drop into the centre or contact the advisors by telephone, text message or the website.

Judith Segal, a VASWS trustee and volunteer adviser, added: “I am really excited about this new project. It will enhance the great services we already offer and make the Guildford and Waverley communities even more welcoming and supportive than they are now.”

VASWS will launch the community hub in early 2019.

Free Training And Support If You Are Looking For a Job In The Care Sector

Community Skills for Care

There is a fantastic opportunity for free training for people looking for a job in the care sector but lack qualifications or need some extra support with job seeking.

Starting soon in Guildford is a free fully accredited three-week part-time course in health and social care. After the course, participants will then receive follow-up support to help them into paid work in the care sector.

What’s involved?

  • A two day introduction into the world of Health and Social Care
  • Then if you think working in a caring role is for you, you can go onto do further training that will give you a level 1 qualification to help you find work experience placements and to find a suitable paid role
  • Your travel expenses will be paid for you to attend the course.

If after the introductory two days you decide you don’t want to do the qualification you can still stay involved. We also need volunteer helpers to support people who need health and social care to become more active in their community. Full training for this role will be given.

To find out more about what working in care is like, have a look at this website – http://www.aquestionofcare.org.uk/

If you want to find out more information and how to apply, come along to one of the introductory sessions. These will be:

  • Friday 25th January at Voluntary Action South West Surrey, Guildford at 10am-12pm
  • Thursday 31st January at Guildford Jobcentre Plus at 2pm-4pm

For more information and to book your place on one of the introductory sessions contact David Rose, the project coordinator on: 07825419408, or email, d.rose@vasws.org.uk

A day at Witley Common

To help volunteers gain experience in conservation, the Welcome to Volunteering team recently took six of their volunteers to Witley Common for a day of conservation activities, giving them the chance to meet others who are part of the Welcome to Volunteering programme, learn new skills and share stories whilst being outside in the fresh air surrounded by spectacular scenery.

Volunteering at Witley Common

Witley Common is a National Trust park and provides opportunities for people to help with conservation. Alan Taylor, education officer at Witley Common has created a bespoke programme to do this and engage with people that wouldn’t ordinarily visit the site to  develop new skills, whilst experiencing what it is like working outside and caring for the environment.

The Welcome to Volunteering team took part in this programme and first visited Witley Common in February. After a hugely successful day increasing the volunteers’ confidence, skills and wellbeing, the team wanted to give more volunteers the chance to experience this and revisited the site in November to take part in activities such as cutting down birch trees to help with the growth of heather, learning bush skills, making nettle soup, learning how to light fires safely and toasting marshmallows.

The volunteers found these activities to be extremely valuable and it gave them the opportunity to meet like-minded people and work together as part of a team outside in nature.

Welcome to Volunteering

The Welcome to Volunteering project is a Voluntary Action South West Surrey project that helps to support people with mental health problems take up volunteering roles.

For more information about how the programme is helping people to learn new skills, broaden their horizons and improve their mental health,  please click here. 


How volunteering has helped me: Hannah’s story

Welcome to Volunteering

My name is Hannah and I am 27. I had a mental health breakdown whilst working as a swim school co-coordinator and swimming teacher in 2016. I didn’t go out, speak to friends, sleep or smile for a long time.

After being off work for a year, my anxiety got to the point where I was able to control it and my days weren’t taken up with constant worrying and getting upset – I even became bored at home. Despite the fact I felt a bit better I was still not ready to look for a job, the thought of being responsible and being paid to do something was so scary and not achievable, I felt stuck in the limbo of being bored yet feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing anything worthwhile with my day.

One day, the idea of volunteering was presented to me and at the time the thought of finding somewhere and making the first contact with anyone was an unbearable task.

Welcome to Volunteering

I was then pointed in the direction of Welcome to Volunteering at Voluntary Action South West Surrey, by the Richmond Fellowship. During my first meeting with Lorraine, I felt that she understood exactly what I was looking for and I felt positive that I was starting to move in the right direction. Lorraine spoke to the Chimney Farm Dog Rescue and arranged for us both to go for a first meeting at the charity. This was such a massive help because if I went alone, I would have struggled to communicate with people that I hadn’t met before and this would have made me very anxious.

From this point on, I spent a year with the charity meeting new volunteers, helping with adoptions of the dogs, feeding the dogs and I absolutely loved having a purpose for my day. Being part of Chimney Farm also massively helped increase my confidence and self-esteem which was one of my biggest worries.

Volunteering at Chimney Farm gave me a purpose and something to get up for in the morning. Mostly, I felt like I was helping and working in an environment where I was given responsibility without the added pressure of being employed and being paid for it.

Why volunteering changed my life

If I hadn’t had gone to Chimney Farm and spent a year with them and going through the process with Welcome to Volunteering, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now which is back in employment working with dogs – I get up for work in the morning and look forward to going in.

If you are interested in volunteering and feel that you need some extra support to help you get started, please contact us for more information about our Welcome to Volunteering project.

Why Volunteer?


Volunteers are extremely important in our communities. They can change lives whilst helping key services continue to provide much needed support. Those who volunteer also enrich their own lives – in more ways than you can begin to  imagine.

Why do people volunteer?

There are a variety of reasons for why people volunteer and in a study conducted by National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) between 2017/18, 46% of people said that improving things and helping others remains the most common reason for why they volunteer. 31% of people in the study said they gave up their time because this is what is most important to them.

The research also showed that those aged 25-34-years-old are the least likely to formally volunteer with only 15% doing so once a month. The highest rates of volunteering can be found among 65-74- year-olds with 29% volunteering once a month and 42% volunteering once a year.

If you are interested in volunteering, it doesn’t matter what age group you fall into – the benefits of volunteering can positively impact everyone.

How can volunteering help you?

Some of the ways that volunteering could help you include; giving you a chance to socialise; adding structure and routine to your lifestyle; boosting your confidence and self-esteem; helping you to learn new skills; helping you to develop existing skills; you will be helping others and doing some good; getting out and about and gaining experience for paid work.

There are many organisations in various sectors seeking the help of volunteers and if you would like to learn more about how volunteering could benefit you and the lives of others, please get in touch.

Would you like to start volunteering and need some direction about where to begin? Our website has a fantastic and extensive list of varied opportunities across Guildford and Waverley. Please click here for more information.

Joining Forces to Promote Wellbeing


Students volunteering with the National Citizens Service (NCS) came  along to the Chill and Chat drop-in group in Godalming  to take part in the Challenge Day that was held on the 31st August.  Chill and Chat is a group for people experiencing depression who would like some company and peer support. The theme of the day was wellbeing and the NCS volunteers worked with members of the group to decorate boxes with designs about what wellbeing means to them before ending the day with a fun, energetic game of rounders in the sunshine.

The Challenge Day was extremely successful and it gave the students a chance to meet and chat with people from the group. When asked about what they had learnt from the experience some of the students said, “the experience showed how much of a difference just a little time or money can make”, “something as simple as decorating a box can make someone feel so much better” and “regardless of any other factors, we are all the same when we connect.”

The students said the day had increased their knowledge of mental health issues saying, “it has made me aware of people in isolation”, “I can now see that mental health is harder to treat than the media portrays”, “I realise how important it is to talk about mental health to improve it” and “these people are ordinary people, it is just that they feel down more often than the rest of us.”

After taking part in the day, all of the students commented about how they felt inspired to do further volunteering and one person said, “I have wanted to work with those who are struggling for all of my life, as there is nothing better than being there for someone.”

As part of NCS volunteering programme with VASWS, the students also fundraised for a large canvas that the members of the Chill and Chat can divide into squares and decorate with the continued theme of wellbeing. They are also going to campaign on behalf of some of the organisations at VASWS including the Welcome project and Welcome to Volunteering. To do this, the students are going to distribute leaflets to members of the public in Guildford Town Centre.

For more information about the different organisations at VASWS, please visit https://voluntaryactionsws.org.uk, or for more information about the Chill and Chat drop-in session, please contact Lorraine Yates on l.yates@vasws.org.uk

Voluntary Action South West Surrey is Registered Charity Number: 1116293 | Registered Company Number: 05841344 | Registered Office: 39 Castle Street | Guildford | GU1 3UQ

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