AddThis SmartLayers

Volunteers sign up for daily’s campaign

A regional newspaper campaign urging people to make a difference to those who face living, and dying, alone is celebrating a twin boost.

The Norwich Evening News-backed project, which set out to find volunteer befrienders to help beat social isolation in the city, is paying dividends.

A Friend in Need – launched by the Archant Norfolk title and Voluntary Norfolk – now has 120 people signed up as the scheme reaches the two-year mark since the first group of volunteers got to work.

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.

You’ve got a friend . . . a group of volunteer befrienders who began their training last September, from left, Ingrida Melinaviciute, Laura Gambling, Rosie O'Toole, Naomi Stumpf, Akiko Kadota and Jonathan Ogwunte

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.”

It is two years since the death of 63-year-old Bob Reynolds – who had remained undiscovered in his Lakenham flat for several months – jogged the collective conscience of a region and kick-started the campaign.

Linda Rogers, the charity’s head of operations, said: “Voluntary Norfolk has been recruiting volunteers 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.