How the pandemic helped bring out the community spirit for a Warwickshire children's charity

Like many others, the charity has to adapt how it helped and supported children

A Warwickshire children's charity says it has seen an increase in volunteer applications since the start of the pandemic which has enabled them to help more children than ever before.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought about many restrictions and challenges for everyone but the Friendship Project for Children says its has had a record number of new applications since March 2020.

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The charity matches volunteers with local children in need of some extra support, for regular outings and friendship.

Some of the Friendship project members at a Christmas group outing to the Coombe Abbey light show. Photo supplied

Angela Truman, marketing trustee for the Friendship Project, said: “It is great to see more people wanting to to support local children and families in need.

"We always have a waiting list of children, who are all referred by social services, looking for volunteers to become their ‘Older Friends’.

"New ways of living, dictated by the pandemic, appears to have helped to raise the community spirit."

Covid restrictions meant that existing friendships continued either online, via the phone or sending items in the post – it was essential to let the young person know their friends were thinking of them.

Some of the Friendship project members at a Christmas group outing to the Coombe Abbey light show. Photo supplied

The charity's traditional way of working is for the children to meet with their ‘Older Friends’ face to face – but the volunteers can also now be flexible and communicate with their friends in different ways.

Niki, a new volunteer ‘Older Friend’, said: “I was introduced to the Friendship Project by one of my neighbours, who is also a volunteer.

"Having moved into the area exactly a year ago, it wasn’t easy to meet new people with Covid restrictions in place or to get out and about to explore.

"I found myself with some spare time and feeling a bit down with not feeling needed by my own grown-up children anymore.

Some of the Friendship project members at a Christmas group outing to the Coombe Abbey light show. Photo supplied

"Joining the Friendship Project was a perfect opportunity for me.

"It gave me the motivation to get out and about and find fun things for my ‘Younger Friend’ and I to do together and most of all, it made me feel like I was adding value to someone else’s life.

"Being a parent myself, I know how hard it is to balance work and family life.

"I find it incredibly rewarding now being able to help another family out by giving them just a couple of hours of my time each week to offer their little one some extra much-needed one-to-one fun time."

Angela added: “Since we began in 1986 the Friendship Project has supported over 1,500 local children who have gained confidence and increased self-esteem through their friendships.

"These benefits make such a difference to a young person’s life and the value of these friendships can not be underestimated.

"Our ‘Older Friend’ volunteers also report how much enjoyment and satisfaction they get out of the friendships too”.

If you would like to volunteer with The Friendship Project for Children go to: https://friendshipproject.co.uk/about/how-you-can-help/