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Thank you: Two years on, how Evening News befrienders are changing lives

PUBLISHED: 09:53 14 August 2014 | UPDATED: 10:06 14 August 2014

A group of volunteer befrienders who began their training last September: Ingrida Melinaviciute, Laura Gambling, Rosie O'Toole, Naomi Stumpf, Akiko Kadota and Jonathan Ogwunte. Picture: SIMON FINLAY.

A group of volunteer befrienders who began their training last September: Ingrida Melinaviciute, Laura Gambling, Rosie O'Toole, Naomi Stumpf, Akiko Kadota and Jonathan Ogwunte. Picture: SIMON FINLAY.

Archant Norfolk

We asked our readers for help and, two years on, they are still changing lives for the better.

The campaign

• The Friend in Need campaign calls on Norwich to give their time to help vulnerable people living near them. It was launched after the death of Bob Reynolds, who may have been dead at his Lakenham home for months before he was discovered.

• Giving just two hours a week can keep vulnerable and elderly people in touch with their community. Anyone can be a befriender, no experience is necessary, and the hours can be scheduled to suit you. Full training and support is provided.

• Call Voluntary Norfolk on 01603 614474, email admin@voluntarynorfolk.org.uk or visit www.voluntarynorfolk.org.uk

A Friend in Need was launched by the Norwich Evening News and Voluntary Norfolk to beat social isolation in the city, and this month marks two years since our first group of volunteers got to work.

But despite their generosity, more people are still needed to provide a vital lifeline to vulnerable, elderly and lonely people in their community.

Today we are calling on readers to give a little time every week to visit a person in need and improve their life.

Linda Rogers, the charity’s head of operations, said: “Voluntary Norfolk has been recruiting volunteers to assist and befriend people who are lonely or vulnerable for almost half a century, but in all that time we have rarely if ever seen a public response such as we have witnessed with the A Friend in Need campaign.

“In the two years since the sad death of Robert Reynolds prompted us to contact The Norwich Evening News about a joint recruitment campaign, around 120 readers have come forward to volunteer their services. Their time, compassion and enthusiasm have augmented the superb efforts of our existing volunteers and they are making a huge difference in our communities.”

A Friend in Need was named Community Campaign of the Year at the EDF East of England Regional Media Awards in 2013, in recognition of the way readers had responded with direct action to help others.

Despite the success of the campaign so far, more volunteers are needed to be paired with people across Norwich who could benefit from a regular visitor – starting with just two hours a week.

Tim Williams, managing editor of the Norwich Evening News, said: “We know and have seen first-hand what a positive influence volunteering can have on people’s lives.

“Our readers have reacted to the campaign with enthusiasm and generosity, but the need for help never goes away.

“In all parts of the city, there are people who can benefit from a regular visit from a community befriender. If you can spare the time, please get in touch with Voluntary Norfolk.”

• Have you benefited from A Friend in Need, or been motivated to volunteer? Email mark.shields@archant.co.uk

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