Connecting Ripon: Celebrating Connections in Volunteers

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Today is the first day of Volunteers’ Week, the annual celebration of volunteering. This week will also see the launch of the 10th Harrogate District Volunteering Oscars, always an inspiring and humbling event.

There are so many different ways you can volunteer locally, to suit your interests and availability. You can really do almost anything! Mentoring, befriending, social media, conservation, youth work, sports, driving, DIY ... the list is endless! Everybody has something unique to offer and volunteering can take as much or as little time as you can give. A new opportunity to get involved in Ripon is through ‘Culture and Connections’, a social project being piloted by Ripon Museums Trust. The project aims to improve mental wellbeing and reduce the practical and emotional impacts of social isolation. Helen Young, the Project Coordinator says: ‘There are opportunities for people in Ripon to make connections, to meet new friends and to get involved in the local community, socially or as a volunteer’. Participants are invited to take part in a wide range of activities at Ripon Museums, starting with taster sessions including craft activities, working behind the scenes, helping in the gardens and object handling. Each person is linked to a ‘buddy’ who can help them to participate in the activities. Volunteer buddies can take part in activities which interest them and are there for people who may lack confidence, find it difficult to make new friends or who face other low level physical or mental health barriers. The project is open to anyone who would like to try something new but may be particularly useful for people who are feeling socially isolated or who would like to improve their wellbeing. People can be referred by the any organisations that they are involved with; their local GP or they can complete a ‘self’ referral. There is no cost to participating in Culture and Connections. When potential participants first meet with the Coordinator, they will have a conversation about the project, their interests, and activities in the museum that they might wish to be involved in and projects will be offered to suit their needs. If people find that they enjoy the taster sessions, they will be invited to take part in further activities and may eventually become part of the supportive volunteer team. Helen says: “As part of the project I can also direct people to other local opportunities, depending on their interests, and this includes opportunities with other charities and groups in the Connecting Ripon Network”. The project is based on the Connecting People model which encourages organisations to make small changes in the way they work with people to increase people’s social connections.  Social connections are linked with healthy ageing, greater happiness, well-being, and health-related quality of life. Volunteering can also boost your confidence and is an opportunity to learn new skills, as well as sharing your skills with others who may need a little help. If you would like to get involved in ‘Culture and Connections’ contact Helen Young at Ripon Museum Trust on 01765 690799 or helen.young@riponmuseums.co.uk. The HARCVS Volunteering Directory lists hundreds of other diverse and exciting opportunities to help you find your ideal volunteering role in Ripon and across the Harrogate District. You can search by location and the causes and activities which interest you. There are also roles suitable for students and young people and wheelchair users. What better time to take look and get inspired than in Volunteers’ Week? Visit www.harcvs.org.uk/volunteer to find out more.