A national initiative to create opportunities for young people to volunteer in their own communities has been launched at Alnwick Castle.
As one of only 20 trusts in the country to deliver the Pears #iwill Fund project, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has recruited 15 youngsters to spend time with older people in their own homes to help combat loneliness.
It is the first time the trust has facilitated young people volunteering in the community.
The scheme, launched by the Duchess of Northumberland, will improve the health and wellbeing of vulnerable older people in the county and support young people in developing knowledge and improving skills through social action that will benefit them throughout their lives.
The young people, aged 16 to 18, from the Duchess’s Community High School, in Alnwick, and James Calvert Spence College, in Amble, are befriending older people at Weavers’ Court extra care scheme in Alnwick, with plans to recruit more young volunteers from across Northumberland and North Tyneside.
By 2020, the trust hopes to have taken on 200 volunteers as part of the broader Pears #iwill Fund project to enable young people to volunteer within the NHS.
The project is funded by the Pears #iwill Fund, a partnership fund created by the Big Lottery Fund, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Pears Foundation, to support the goals of the #iwill campaign to make meaningful social action part of life for 10 to 20-year-olds by the year 2020.
It is being run in conjunction with the trust’s district nurses and social care support teams.
Jim Mackey, chief executive at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I am extremely proud that we are spearheading this hugely exciting national project here in the North East.
“For many years, our volunteers have added immeasurable value to our patients, our staff and our organisation as a whole, carrying out a wide range of roles in our hospitals.
“We’re delighted to branch out, for the first time, to enable young people living in Northumberland and North Tyneside to volunteer with older people in their own homes, in their own communities.
“With more and more older people feeling lonely, this is a hugely important intergenerational project which will improve the health and wellbeing of older people while giving young people vital life skills.”
Following robust training, the young people will spend time with older people in their own homes and give a helping hand around the house.
Ciara Healy, 17, from Duchess’s High, is one of the volunteers taking part in the scheme.
Ciara, from Alnwick, said: “I just want to help out in my community and make an older person’s day a little bit better.
“I visited residents in a care home when I was in middle school and really enjoyed it and now that I’m older, and more confident, I feel that I will be able to engage with the older people more.
“I’m really looking forward to getting to know the people at Weavers’ Court and hearing their stories.”
The Duchess spoke positively about the scheme.
She said: “Volunteers provide vital help to individuals, charities and organisations in our community and I am pleased that the first volunteers for this excellent new project have been recruited from the Alnwick and Amble areas and I am so pleased it’s been launched here at Alnwick Castle.
“It’s so important that young people are given opportunities to play a greater role in their own communities and I wholeheartedly support this scheme which enables them to learn new skills and gain valuable experience in health and social care, both of which will stand them in good stead for the future.
“I wish the volunteers every success in their new roles and thank the trust and the project’s funders for setting this up.”
The Duchess is an avid supporter of volunteers and holds an annual garden party to honour those who help others.