Former Burnham parish councillor sets up Buddy-up scheme to combat loneliness during coronavirus outbreak

Former Burnham parish councillor sets up Buddy-up scheme to combat loneliness during coronavirus outbreak

Photo by Anastasia Prince

A former Burnham parish councillor has set up a Buddy-up Scheme in a bid to combat loneliness during the coronavirus outbreak.

The scheme, which has now been opened up to all Burnham residents, was initially started by volunteer Paula Prince on Friday, March 13, following the temporary closure of the Monday Club due to the outbreak.

The initiative, which currently has more than 50 volunteers, sees them paired up with a vulnerable person who they can call at least once a week to check up on and chat to.

Paula said: “The Buddy-up Scheme in Burnham is going incredibly well. We have over 50 volunteers.

“I actually started it up on Friday 13th March when we decided to close the Monday Club. I wanted to make sure someone was looking out for all of our members and they weren’t getting too lonely and bored. Loneliness is the biggest killer amongst the Elderly.

“I asked the volunteers at the Monday Club if they would be happy to phone any of the members and I allocated them 2-3 members each. After spending five hours phoning the members it was clear that loneliness was going to be a big problem over the next few months.

“Then I thought about all the other elderly people in Burnham and the vulnerable ones. That then led me onto the people having to self-isolate who may have never had to stay on their own all day everyday before and I just felt something needed to be done.

“Our youngest [volunteer] is 21 and our eldest is 87.”

Volunteers can sign up through the Burnham Parish Council website or obtain Paula’s contact details through their street co-ordinator, while residents can be referred to the scheme by anyone.

Paula added: “We ask the volunteers to call their Buddy at least once a week to check on them and have a chat. Some get on so well that they call everyday if they are able. I’ve heard some really lively stories and it’s really heart warming.

“It has been a lot of work but if it helps just one person then it was worth all the effort!

“This is such an important scheme as so many people have been affected by this crisis in a negative way and someone just phoning for a chat can make such a huge difference to their mental health.”

Discussing the building of intergenerational links through the scheme, Paula said: “The elderly have so much wisdom and so much knowledge and the younger ones can help with technology and keep the older ones young with their stories.”

“I would love for people to keep in touch with each other after this is all over. The difference it could make to people’s lives is just phenomenal and wouldn’t it be great to think that something really good could come out if such an awful time. This is how communities are built by people looking out for each other and getting to know each other.”

To contact Paula Prince call: 07703306607

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