Sheffield charity appealing for more multilingual volunteers to help combat loneliness amongst the older generation

A Sheffield charity is looking for new volunteers who can speak several languages – in a bid to help reduce loneliness amongst older people throughout the city.

Thursday, 6th May 2021, 3:19 pm

Sheffield Church’s Council for Community Care (SCCCC) is particularly keen on attracting volunteers who can speak either Bengali, Punjabi or Arabic as part of its Good Neighbour Scheme which matches volunteers with isolated, older residents, making connections through regular telephone calls and visits to their home.

The charity launched its Inclusivity Community Care project last year, which aims to provide targeted support to older people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, some of whom face cultural or language barriers which prevent them from accessing the support they need.

George Joseph a 23-year-old student from the University of Sheffield and a volunteer at SCCCC, said: “I’ve been matched with a gentleman called Peter and I telephone him once a week. We’ve developed a really good relationship, based upon mutual respect and friendship. Even though we never met in person, Peter is very open and understanding and our friendship has benefitted my own communication skills too.

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Volunteers are matched with isolated, older residents in an attempt to tackle loneliness.

“We talk about nearly everything, from the little things that happen in our daily lives, to big events in the news. It is genuinely interesting interacting with people from other generations and to listen to their perspective on current issues. It’s also fascinating to hear stories from their lives and to see how things were done a few decades ago and how things have changed.

“Peter has experienced the world much more than I have, so it's really interesting to hear stories from his life. We also have a few similar interests such as motorbikes and cars, so conversations never dry up.

“I am fortunate that as well as speaking English, I am fluent in Malayalam- a language which is mainly spoken in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Whilst I’ve not yet been matched to a service user who speaks Malayalam, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to put this skill to good use in the future, potentially helping a fellow Malayalam speaker whose language means they are even more cut off from their community than they might otherwise have been.”

The Good Neighbour Scheme is open to older people and volunteers from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, however, the Inclusive Community Care project is adapted so that it is culturally sensitive and catered towards the needs of older people and volunteers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Rehneesa Inez, who runs the Inclusive Community Care project at SCCCC, said: “Language can be a massive barrier to some people in our communities accessing the support of friendship schemes like ours. Whilst we always look to match our volunteers with a wide range of services users- English speaking or otherwise- the more languages we have available to us within our fantastic army of volunteers, the more lives we will potentially be able to change.”

SCCCC is encouraging volunteers to apply if they can spare an hour a week and can speak an additional language.

Alternatively, those who are aged 65 or over and looking for a friendly face to chat with on a regular basis are also encouraged to get in touch.

For more information or to volunteer, email: [email protected] or visit the website.