Community Network is a small national charity that tackles loneliness and social isolation using telecommunications. Nowadays people have more ways of communicating than ever before, so it is easy to forget that many people are lonely, bored or lacking in mental stimulation. Sadly, loneliness and social isolation often go hand in hand with poor physical and mental health.
At the start of 2016 I decided I wanted to become a Trustee of a charity. I wanted to volunteer my time to do something good but I also wanted to increase my own learning about the sector. I’d had experience as a staff member at a charity of working with Trustee Boards but I wanted to experience it from the other side.
When I found that Community Network was looking for new recruits I was really interested. The charity’s concept is very simple but I found it so compelling. Experiencing loneliness is apparently as dangerous to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, is more harmful than obesity and linked to heart disease and dementia.
The charity sets up ‘Talking Communities’ which are groups of people from anywhere in the country who are brought together once a week to socialise together on the phone. Many of the participants are older people, carers and disabled people with mobility problems. A participant might have a partner who has dementia and so is unable to leave them to go out. They or their spouse may have had a career in the armed forces which meant they never stayed in one place so now that they are retired they don’t have roots in the community they live in.
A phone call a week which is hosted by a trained volunteer is a lifeline for some people who may not see anyone for days at a time. Bringing people together helps combat social isolation and loneliness and their devastating effects on health and well-being. It’s a chance to socialise, share experiences and support each other. Since ‘meetings’ take place on the phone or online, they are easy to use and access – even for people who have mobility problems or a disability.
As part of my Trustee induction I was able to listen to some of the calls and I found it very moving. The pleasure that the participants take in being part of the group, and the way they expressed what a lifeline it was to them makes me realise what a real difference human connection makes. Its very easy to take for granted the ability to go out and make friends which is essentially what the charity provide to those who may longer have that.
I’m really inspired by the work of this charity and I’m excited to be working with them to grow our reach. Why not donate, volunteer your time or even just follow them on twitter: @Com_Net