A SOUTHAMPTON charity is urging anyone who made New Year’s Resolutions to get happier, healthier and give their career a boost this month (January 2019) to get in touch.

Communicare says taking time out to help others as part of its Communiteer programme can help individuals live longer, stay fit and enable them to cope better with illness.

Annie Clewlow, Communicare Manager explained: “It’s well-known that those who give their time freely to help others do a power of good for the charities they assist, but increasingly people are realising helping out can also bring many benefits to themselves too.

“Our band of Communiteers are a vital part of our organisation. They are our life blood and we would not be able to manage without them. We are always seeking more helpers and are urging people to get in touch.”

The Community Life Survey published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in 2018 found wanting to ‘do good’ remains the most important reason to volunteer.

Having spare time is an important reason for people to get involved (25%) but also a barrier for people to get into volunteering or do it more frequently. One in two people (51%) said that work commitments prevent them from volunteering and more than one third (37%) said they do other things in their spare time.

Annie continued: “Even when people have a few minutes to spare and are not available on a regular basis, there are ways in which they can make a difference to someone who needs support.

“Aside from the obvious feel-good factor from giving your time to a worthy cause, becoming a Communiteer has a number of key benefits for your career too. Not only is it a great way to gain practical experience, it can also help you stand out from the crowd and learn practical skills, which will make you more desirable for prospective employers.

“Becoming a Communiteer for as little as an hour a week you’ll feel happier, healthier and boost your career, while making a meaningful difference to society too.”

Individuals are able to play an active role in their society and by mixing with people from different cultural and social backgrounds, it helps break down social barriers. Communicare’s work has a huge impact on individuals and communities and every contribution of time, regardless of amount, counts.

“A survey carried out by The Big Lunch in 2015, revealed that more than 66% of British adults are lonely to some extent or another. Research by Holt-Lunstad in 2015 showed that lacking social connections is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and increases the likelihood of mortality by 26%.

“Becoming a Communiteer helps others and, also, helps us feel physically healthier, improves our sense of well-being, lowers stress levels and enriches our sense of purpose in life. The NHS agrees. On its website*, updated in November 2018, it says small acts of kindness bring many health benefits to the individual giver, including improved quality of life, improved ability to cope with ill-health and improved self-esteem.

“Studies have found that when you stop thinking about your own problems and focus on someone other than yourself, your stress levels start to decrease, your immune system is strengthened and your overall sense of life satisfaction increases. This is because helping someone else interrupts tension-producing patterns and replaces it with a sense of purpose, positive emotions and high confidence levels.

“Also, whether you’re a student, a person with a long career or someone in between, there are plenty of good reasons why becoming a Communiteer can be beneficial to you. It boosts your CV, gives you opportunities to meet people and expand your network, helps you clarify your career goals, while gaining new skills or refining ones you already have, and helps increase your confidence. So, volunteering is something to embrace as part of a busy working day.”

Communicare’s Good Neighbours’ Network supports nearly 350 individuals/families annually in Southampton, covering more than 600 different tasks such as one-to-one befriending and transport to activities. All the assistance offered is free to users, although beneficiaries are invited to make a donation if they are able, and Communiteers are offered expenses.

“Our services are run by us and staffed by our committed, kind-hearted, Communiteers, who generously provide their practical and emotional support on a very local level.

“We know people worry about giving up their time and may feel this is a huge commitment. We appreciate everyone is busy, but we find even the busiest person has a few minutes each day to make a phone call or to drop in and see a neighbour when they are passing.

“You might also be able to tag on to your own shopping trip getting a few items for a neighbour too. We’re not asking for complicated, overly time-consuming tasks, just simple ones that can be incorporated into your daily routine as needed.”

Communiteers are offered simple and basic training on topics such as safeguarding, manual handling and developing listening skills should they wish to take it up. They can choose their level of involvement and the types of activities they wish to engage in too.”

Communicare is looking for businesses, groups and individuals in Southampton that would like to get involved in some way, even if they have just 30 minutes every now and then to spare.

To find out more about Communicare, please call 023 8021 6022, visit www.communicareinsouthampton.org.uk or follow the charity on Twitter at @Communicare_SO or log on to www.facebook.com/CommunicareInSouthampton.

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