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  • Help and support

Give the January blues a rosy tint by volunteering to help others

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Release date:
17 1 2013

As 21 January - labelled the most depressing day of the year - hits, the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) and Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA) are calling on people throughout Wales to give Blue Monday a rosy glow by volunteering their time at a local community group or charity.

As well as making a difference to others, Big Lottery Fund (BIG) research* has found that volunteering can help to increase skills, confidence and self-esteem - a welcome antidote to the January blues. That’s why BIG has teamed up with WCVA to encourage more people to volunteer and shake off their post-Christmas blues. As the umbrella body for the voluntary sector in Wales, WCVA represents, and has links with, thousands of voluntary organisations throughout the country. 
BIG funds thousands of good causes throughout Wales, from respite help for carers, projects to help people overcome disabilities or illness, supporting children and young people to fulfil their potential, or regenerating parks and public spaces.

Big Lottery Fund Director for Wales, John Rose, said: “The 2012 Games showed the public’s appetite for volunteering and the thousands of people signing up to support the Commonwealth Games reinforces this. But volunteering for a local project or charity is just as valuable and can have an even greater impact: it can make a significant difference to your community or the lives of people in need, and our research shows it can help to improve your wellbeing too.”

As well as volunteering for projects funded by the Big Lottery Fund, there are thousands of other activities and charities in need of support.

Highlighting the benefits of volunteering, Tim Day, Director of Volunteering and Policy at WCVA, said:  “Every volunteer will have their own story to tell as to why they do it and what they get out of it. For some it’s a natural way of life to get involved with their community, working together with others and doing what they care about.” 

“For others it’s a new adventure, motivated perhaps by the need to gain experience in a particular skill area, or to ‘move on’ after a life-shattering experience such as illness, bereavement or redundancy.  Volunteering, which by definition involves no financial reward, does in fact reap huge, intangible rewards. You only have to ask a volunteer to find out!”

Funded with £250,000 from the Big Lottery Fund’s People and Places programme, the People and Wildlife project run by Gwent Wildlife Trust is always looking for new volunteers to help with the project and other projects and nature reserves they manage throughout the Gwent region. The People and Wildlife project works with volunteers at its Silent Valley Nature Reserve in the Upper Ebbw Valley and provides groups of young people who are not engaged in education, training or employment with experience of working in conservation to increase their practical skills and help them work better as a team to achieve a goal.

One person who can vouch for the benefits of volunteering for the project is 20 year old Sally Morgan from Brynmawr, Blaenau Gwent. Sally is a full-time carer for her father who suffers from chronic heart failure. Volunteering for the project has helped develop her skills and passion for environmental conservation and provides her with a much needed break from her caring responsibilities. Such has been the impact of her volunteering; Sally has now found work as Reserves Officer Assistant with the project and is studying towards an Open University degree in Conservation and Ecology.

“Through my involvement with the project I’ve learnt a lot of new practical skills related to the management of local green spaces for the benefit of wildlife but also as places for people to visit and enjoy being outdoors,” she explains.

“From just volunteering two days a week, I found I was learning new skills such as stock fencing, land management, identification skills and first aid; which made my caring aspect easier as no one in my family was first aid trained. I have attended numerous Gwent Wildlife Trust courses, talks and events, which has given me the opportunity to meet likeminded people and build lasting friendships, which would not have been possible previously. I’ve gained in confidence and I’m now studying towards an Open University degree.”

If you are interested in volunteering with Gwent Wildlife Trust, please contact Veronika Brannovic at Gwent Wildlife Trust on vbrannovic@gwentwildlife.org or call 01495 307525.

And in Anglesey, North Wales, the Cadwyn Môn befriending project run by Age Cymru Gwynedd a Môn is also looking for volunteers to enable older people to live fuller lives. Funded with nearly £610,000 from BIG’s £20 million AdvantAGE programme, Cadwyn

Môn is a five year project working with people over the age of 50 on Anglesey who, through no fault of their own, find themselves lonely or isolated from their local communities.    

Encouraging people to volunteer for the project, Cadwyn Môn Manager, Helen Ellis, said: “We meet people every day who would dearly like to make new friends, join a club, take up a new hobby or learn a new skill, but they lack the confidence needed to take that first step.

Cadwyn Môn provides trained volunteers who befriend the individuals and help them overcome these obstacles. We find that the one thing that makes the biggest difference to people’s health and wellbeing is making new friends, people enjoy going out to places such as the Age Well Centres and revel in the friendship and activities they find there”.

Helen added: “The demand for this service has far exceeded our expectations, hence we are always looking for new volunteers to come forward, so if anyone has a few hours to spare please get in touch with us, we offer any training required and pay out of pocket expenses. Volunteering can be very rewarding, often people get as much out of the experience as the individuals they work with get. Being part of a team also has its own rewards, with regular support meetings and gatherings where volunteers get together to share their experiences.”

Anyone interested in the service or in volunteering can contact Helen to find out more on 01248 724 970 or on email: cadwynmon@acgm.co.uk

For more information volunteering opportunities in Wales visit www.volunteering-wales.net

Further Information:

Oswyn Hughes - Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 02920 678 207
Out of Hours Contact: 07760 171 431
Public Enquiries Line: 08454 102030                           Textphone:  0845 6021 659
Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available at: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk
Ask BIG a question here: https://ask.biglotteryfund.org.uk
Follow BIG on Twitter: www.twitter.com/biglotterywales
Find BIG on facebook: www.facebook.com/biglotteryfundwales 

Notes to Editors
• In Wales, the Big Lottery Fund is rolling out around £100,000 a day in Lottery good cause money, which together with other Lottery distributors means that across Wales most people are within a few miles of a Lottery-funded project.
• The Big Lottery Fund, the largest of the National Lottery good cause distributors, has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. It was established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
• Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to Good Causes. As a result, over £29 billion has now been raised and more than 383,000 grants given out across the arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.
• WCVA supports and represents the third sector in Wales, with more than 3,000 members including a wide range of organisations working on issues such as housing, economic regeneration, childcare, community development, transport, the environment and health.