Social isolation is common place
One-on-one volunteer can be assigned to those in needing of a friend
Many people in Central Otago are on the fringe of social isolation and are in need of a friend. It has been scientifically proven that friendship has a profound effect on our lives and maintaining and forming friendships is an important pillar of brain health. The Central Otago Friendship Network needs your help to eradicate loneliness - one of the most debilitating experiences a person can have. Network chairwoman Jan Possione said research has unfortunately found New Zealand was ‘‘not doing well with social connections’’. The network promotes friendship to people with limited social opportunities by matching vulnerable people with a one-on-one volunteer and hosting activities in group meetings. ‘‘We are here for those at risk of being socially isolated,’’ Mrs Possione said. The network, which was only possible with thte support of Central Lakes Trust, has welcomed two new staff members, coordinator Gay McCaughan and assistant co-originator Janice Gray. Mrs McCaughan said it was searching for volunteers across a range of age groups to help with people identified at risk and referrals, including self-referrals, were also welcomed. ‘‘It’s important for people to know they can refer themselves,’’ she said. The group holds meetings three days a week which include playing cards, going for coffee and being among a group of people those involved can trust. ‘‘There’s so many people out there that are on the fringe and don’t have an opportunity to make friends. ‘‘There are so many lonely people. We can reach out to them and give them some happiness,’’ Mrs Gray said. Volunteers were always needed to help drive those involved in the network to meetings and if someone could give up a few hours a month to volunteer it would be much appreciated, Mrs McCaughan said. Mrs McCaughan and Mrs Gray replace founding member Kath McKenzie, who was involved in setting up the group and had been a part of the team for almost 25 years. ‘‘If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is,’’ Mrs Possione said.
Friendly: Central Otago Friendship Network co-ordinator Gay McCaughan, chairwoman Jan Possione and assistant coordinator Janice Gray are looking for volunteers and referrals for the service. Can you help or do you know of anyone in need? Contact the Central Otago Friendship Network co ordinator Gay McCaughan on 447 3636