Volunteers’ Week is a time to celebrate the contributions millions of people make across the UK through volunteering.

So much of what we are used to, and what many of those in our line of work benefit from, comes from the wonderful dedication of volunteers. As well as helping others, volunteering has been shown to improve volunteers’ wellbeing too.

It’s human nature to feel good after helping someone out. Volunteering can also help you gain valuable new skills and experiences and boost your confidence. Locally, there is ample opportunity to help and find help. You can find out all about Volunteer Week and how you can get involved here, but we thought we’d bring you just a couple of stories from those in our local area.

Firstly, we wanted to shine a light on the wonderful work of The Bearded Fishermen. Founded by Rick Roberts and Mick Leyland, The Bearded Fishermen – while based in Gainsborough – is a dedicated mental health awareness and suicide prevention charity, providing support 24-hours a day.

Starting life as a Facebook group, The Bearded Fishermen escalated to the two offices the charity now works out of, all run by volunteers, a call centre offering 24/7 support and their own radio station. The latest addition to their support offering is the Nightwatch patrol on the Humber Bridge. Recently closed off to walkers due to the number of people taking their own lives on the bridge, Nightwatch manager Peter along with a team of volunteers, now patrol bridge hotspots Tuesday – Saturday, from 7-9.30/10pm, alongside Mind who man the Humber Bridge Wellbeing Hub for three-hours every day.

“As long as The Bearded Fishermen has been going, we’ve provided safe spaces for those who need support to come, no matter the time or day. The call centre in manned all day and night, we meet people face to face, and if we can’t help, we always sign post them to places where they will absolutely find the help they need,” says Peter.

“The Nightwatch that now patrols the Humber Bridge check the areas that are known for people attempting to take their life. So far, we have chatted to and brought four people off the bridge safely.

“The wellbeing hub at the bridge is manned by us Tuesday – Saturday, 7 – 9.30/10pm, and Mind who are there for three hours a day. When our team of volunteers is there, we have two patrolling and two in the hub itself. We are looking to recruit more volunteers so that we can be there every night and during the day too. Ideally, we want the hub to be manned 24-hours day, 7days a week. We want to be there so people know they aren’t alone in this, to have a chat and cuppa and sign post them to further help if we cannot provide what they need,” adds the Nightwatch Manager.

“I’ve been involved for the last year or so. For 20 years I’ve lived with depression and attempted to take my own life three times. Last year I was having a particularly bad spell, going through a hard time, and I went to the crisis team. I needed help and found The Bearded Fishermen. I started as someone on the phones, and it just progressed. I love what I’m doing – it’s a shame I can’t do it full-time. I’ve been there, I know what it’s like to not be able to see a way out or see the help that is out there for you. Because it is there. For men it’s a big thing. We’re all brought up to be strong and to just ‘get on with’ things. But we need to talk too. Everyone has days where they don’t know where up is. I’m a firm believer that more needs to be done before we get to this point, before needing to patrol the bridge. We have to find ways of getting to people before it goes this far – and that’s where community groups and call centres like the one we’re running are so important.

You can find out more about The Bearded Fishermen, talk to someone or book an appointment all through their website right here.

Secondly, it is Shoots of Hope and The Trin that we wanted to flag up. With a Community Lottery Fund donation rejuvenating Cleethorpes’ community centre, a team of staff and volunteers now work to run an exciting offering – including the Shoots of Hope Community Garden Project.

Open Tuesdays and Thursdays weekly, from 10am – 1pm, centre manager Andy Cox really hopes the project encourages people into a Covid-safe environment where they can combat any mental health issues as well as learn some new skills – or hone old ones. The team that gathers twice weekly is currently growing plants, flowers, and vegetables.

Andy says: “With a dedicated area at the back of the centre we have divided it up into a grassed space with picnic tables where our members and volunteers can have a coffee and socialise, and the garden space. We’re already looking into expanding that area as so much is growing and there is so much the group would still like to do.

“We’ll be looking to host events, such as a Teddy Bear’s Picnic to encourage more people to join and get younger generations involved too. There are those who come for the gardening and to learn new skills, and those who come for the social aspect of the group. It’s accessible for everyone, wheelchair users included.”

Run by Sharon, the group is a democracy so all big decisions on what gets planted, when, and where is down to the group. Members can work on whatever they fancy, over the last few weeks it was making a windbreak from recycled bottles.

The community group is lucky enough to count expert gardeners in their midst, so help is always on hand for newbies. The project is hugely social, with members now branching out to include other activities such as building and baking. Accessible to all, with a range of ages in attendance, booking isn’t necessary to attend this free community project, just turn up and roll up your sleeves. If you would like any more information, please call 01472 232750.

To find even more volunteer opportunities locally, you can head over to gov.uk and search its database.

We too are looking to see what interest there is out there when it comes to volunteers. In particular to help with The Westerly Club. We’re looking for volunteers that can be available to chat with our Westerly’s if they need a friendly ear, or to meet up for a walk. You don’t have to be local to Lincolnshire – our Westerly’s are peppered across the UK – but if you have some time on your hands, and would like some company over the phone or in person, you could be just who we’re looking for. If you would be interested in finding out about volunteer opportunities with The Westerly Club, please get in touch here.

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If you have any questions at all about mental health, please do get in touch with the team by calling 01472 241794 or emailing [email protected]

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