Good morning, Angels

Beating the summer time blues

Good morning Angels!” chirped Lance on joining the call. “You sound very lively today,” Edith observed of Lance.

It’s August, pouring with rain and peak holiday time. You’re in a longer than normal airport queue. Heading abroad to a central or southern Europe heatwave, or have arrived and find yourself on full forest fire alert. Maybe it’s time to pack your wellies and waterproofs ready to huddle together at a UK resort. More like “Good morning campers!” perhaps.

For Lance, Edith and their telephone group friends a staycation is the routine. Holidays are things that happen for others now. And summertime, just as much as Christmas holidays, can amplify feelings of loneliness, summertime blues. . . unless of course you meet up regularly with friends in your telephone group.

Having the privilege to be a guest facilitator for this group I found myself on an entertaining journey as members exchanged life experiences. We went from Guyana to Gamages, London Eye to the Lyons Tea House and had croissants watching the women’s Tour de France (“I didn’t know they had a ladies’ tour until it went past my window.”). The hour whizzed by, just like the cyclists.

Our holiday was virtual. All in the mind. Happy times conjured up by telephone group participants’ conversations sparking off so many connected memories. A sense of belonging created. The worth of peer supporting telephone communities, for me, richly affirmed.

In the happy knowledge that Lance, Edith and the others will have their volunteer facilitator, Shani, back with them again later this month, I’m off now to pack my tent. I’ll be pitching this, weather permitting, whilst on holiday in the Wye Valley,. The campsite’s river is rising and I’ve been told there’s limited telephone reception. But don’t worry, I’ll be encouraging fellow campers to store memories to share with friends in future years . . . to share in telephone groups of course.

Happy to chat? We are!

Our joint response with The Phone Co-op on launch of Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness.

The Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness launched last month taking forward the work she started before her tragic death.

Bringing together a cross party group of MPs with 13 charities including Royal Voluntary Service, Action for Children, Refugee Action and colleagues at The Co-op, the Commission will be shining a light on different aspects of loneliness and the positive steps we can all take to combat it.

Jo Cox put it perfectly: ‘Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate… it is something many of us could easily help with.’

Loneliness can affect people of all ages, from the bullied school child, to the new mother, to the pensioner who has outlived her friends and immediate family.  Tackling loneliness requires us all to contribute.

As The Campaign to End Loneliness and now The Jo Cox Foundation are gathering momentum across government, charity and business sectors we wanted to pledge our support.

Working together Community Network and The Phone Co-op have been tackling loneliness, working in partnership specifically using telecoms, enabling lonely people to connect in groups by phone.

Robert Edmonds, Chief Executive Officer of Community Network added: “Combating loneliness is at the heart of the service that we are delivering in partnership with The Phone Co-op”.

We combine with The Phone Co-op to host our Talking Communities bringing together groups, over the phone, of up to six people and giving them opportunities to socialise and gain telephone friends.  If you are involved with one of our groups or are a charity or community group already using our teleconferencing for social purposes, please spread the word. If you want to find out more about how to get started get in contact.

We’ve now signed up to the Jo Cox Loneliness, Start a Conversation campaign. Loneliness is something that we can all help to combat, one conversation at a time.  We’ve pledged to be ‘Happy To Chat’.

Whether on the phone or face to face, let’s all join with the Jo Cox Loneliness, Start a Conversation, campaign. You can find out how to pledge your support here.


1 Community Network is a charity and social enterprise using telecoms for social benefit. Based from Archway, North London, it works across the UK to combat social isolation, loneliness and their devastating effects on health. Since 1989 it has been bringing socially isolated people together to build talking communities, telecoms enabled peer support. The groups are hosted by trained volunteers and help people to engage with others, build confidence, increase self-esteem and improve mental health and well-being. Community Network specialise in supporting charities and community groups in setting up and hosting talking communities, getting people together over the telephone.

2 The Phone Co-op is a telecoms and internet service provider based in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire and in Manchester. It is a consumer co-operative, owned by its members, who are its customers. It provides products and services (phone, mobile and broadband as well as business data services) to residential and business customers throughout the UK. It also provides teleconferencing facilities for charities, not for profit organisations and other co-operatives. Driven by its members, it has a strong focus on ethics, both social and environmental. The Phone Co-op has over 30,000 business and residential customers, over 70 employees and more than 11,700 members. It started trading in 1998 and has grown steadily since then and now has a turnover of over £12.5 million.


Merchant Navy Day

Merchant Navy Day on 3rd September honours the brave men and women who kept our island nation afloat during both World Wars, and celebrates our dependence on modern day merchant seafarers.

Here at Community Network we reach out to those connected to the Merchant Navy, helping retired seafarers participate in our Seafarers Link telephone communities. We know that many of our beneficiaries will be participating in local and national ceremonies this week.

This year we are ‘doing our bit’, joining local councils and others across the UK commemorating Merchant Navy Day at 10.00am, 3rd September 2015.  Our funding partner Seafarers UK is calling on the government to formally recognise Merchant Navy Day on 3rd September as the official day on which the UK’s historical and ongoing dependence on Merchant Navy seafarers is commemorated, and their special needs acknowledged.

Merchant Navy Memorial and Gardens, Bristol“In war and peace they toiled their trade

Over large angry seas,

Remember them as here you stand,

Beneath these placid trees”

Capt. J Earl

Words quoted above are from Bristol’s Merchant Navy Memorial, June 2000, plaque in the regenerated harbourside, Welsh Back, Bristol.  You can just see the river behind the memorial benches. Out of view in this photo is the flag pole with Red Ensign hoisted. The flag which represents the Merchant Navy will be displayed across the country during commemorations this week.


Telephone Communities

In October Mind, the mental health charity is hosting PeerFest, an event to celebrate the value of peer support for people who experience mental health problems. The event will also launch the findings Mind’s research into peer support in England.

There has been lots of talk about just what the term “peer support” means. There is no wrong or right answer and it means different things to different people. Simply put it is people coming together to help each other, to talk through shared experiences. It can be as informal as a chat over coffee or logging onto an online community such as Mind’s Elefriends.

Peer support is also what happens when people come together on the telephone in one of Community Network’s Telephone Communities. People “meet up” on the phone to talk about common interests. They may all be carers, retired seafarers or share a faith. Many people in our Telephone Communities have restricted mobility or don’t have the confidence to join face to face groups near their homes. Others join groups so they can share their experiences and support others in similar situations. Telephone Communities offer an easy, accessible way for such people to come together to talk, laugh share and help each other.

Mind’s PeerFest event is on Friday 25th October 2013 at City of Birmingham’s Symphony Orchestra Centre. You can sign up for PeerFest or get more information here.