The Living Well Project, Hornsea URC.
Tackling isolation in our community
By working in partnership with other agencies and organisations in our community we have built a community project which supports individuals who have become, or are in danger of becoming, isolated. We do this through a monthly lunch, and through a team of volunteers who support people by contacting them weekly by telephone.
Where did it come from?
We have always tried to be a church community with a clear involvement in our local community. However when we were looking at upgrading our church hall facilities in 2011 we started to explore in more depth how we could live out our faith in practical action in our town.
Who have been our partners in this project?
Our first step was to talk to partner agencies to find out what the needs of our local community were. We talked to our County Council, our local social care and healthcare providers, and organisations from the voluntary sector like AgeUK, Mind and The Azheimers Society.
Who is it for and what needs is it meeting?
We quickly found that Healthy Living was a common theme in our conversations, and in particular the extent to which healthy life-style is a key to improving the quality of life of the whole community. We began looking for funding to assist us in our building work whilst at the same time exploring different aspects of healthy living.
How does the project connect with our faith and mission?
Through our conversations with our partners it became increasingly clear to us that social isolation was one of the most pressing concerns for many agencies, and that we found a clear resonance with the message of the Christian gospel to have a concern for the ‘outsider’.
What were the key steps to get the project started?
In 2012 we began to run a monthly lunch with the purpose of bringing together individuals who are isolated. As we were focusing on the most isolated people, our first challenge was to identify them, and our second challenge was to enable them to access our events.
In response to the first challenge, we set up a system whereby partner agencies could refer individuals to us. This involved all the partners we had already identified but also our existing pastoral networks. In response to the second challenge, we set up a system for inviting our participants individually, by phone, and providing transport where it was necessary.
Having run this lunch for 12 months, and following further conversations with our County Council, we established our Telephone Support Network. We sought and trained up a team of volunteers who would come in for a couple of hours a week to make calls to our participants, offering support, friendship and, where appropriate, advice. The Council provided the funding to establish and run the project for the first three years.
The project grew and attracted an ample number of volunteers from the wider community. We found that the project was able to support not just the elderly and infirm, but also people for whom isolation was the result of their mental health.
- IMPACT ON COMMUNITY & CHURCH
What impact has this project had?
The feedback we have received from participants as the project has developed has been very positive. Many of our participants say that they can identify clear social and health benefits from belonging to the project.
How has this changed the relationship between the church and community?
The church now has a much clearer identity within the local community and is well-known as a key partner in tackling isolation.
How has the life of the church been transformed because of this project?
The project has given the church congregation a much clearer a clearer focus to its life, a deeper sense of serving in Christ’s name, and a much greater understanding of the community within which it exists.
Additional resources and weblinks
See Joseph Rowntree Foundation report, ‘Let’s Talk about Loneliness’
Hornsea United Reformed Church
The Living Well Project 01964 536544PDF