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Volunteers Week: Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme

Written by Lisa Spurgin, 2nd June 2015

The Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme is our longest-running volunteering project, starting in 2011. Funded by Big Lottery, the project has provided volunteers with opportunities to develop their personal skills and confidence, creating volunteer readers who are helping to transform the lives of older people across the region through regular shared reading sessions. Since the project began, our volunteers have provided thousands of shared reading experiences to some of the most isolated older people living in Merseyside, giving meaningful social interaction and helping to lift mood through the beauty and deep emotion of poetry.

As well as offering reading-based roles, the Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme also provides admin opportunities at our offices in Liverpool, Wirral and Calderstones Mansion House. Many of our admin volunteers experience or are at risk of experiencing mental health difficulities, isolation and employment, and the Merseyside project gives them the chance to build on and learn new skills in a supportive environment that allows them to develop at their own pace, taking on new roles in time if they wish to do so.

From photocopying and filing, sorting and organising the vast stack of poems and short stories that we use in our shared reading groups and courses, to manning our reception desk at Calderstones Mansion House, our admin volunteers help to keep the show on the road! Many of our day-to-day activities simply would not run as smoothly as they do without the input of our dedicated team.

Here's some of our Merseyside admin volunteers, explaining what volunteering means to them in their own words:

"I find all kinds of volunteering here very stimulating. I enjoy working in a friendly atmosphere, where volunteers are treated the same as staff and are welcomed." - David

"I enjoy being with the staff and other people I work with. I get on with everyone." - Lesley Tinsley

"My favourite things about being a volunteer are meeting like-minded people and having lots of interesting work. It gives you something positive and fulfilling to do." - Siobhan Jones

"Everyone is very welcoming and works hard as a team. I would say that volunteering is an excellent opportunity not to miss. It provides you with a wealth of skills and experiences that will set you up for future career paths." - Daniel McCarthy

Reading is a big part of volunteer life, and our admin volunteers get the chance to read regularly as part of their own shared reading sessions. In fact, several of our volunteers say that the groups they attend are the highlights of their week. Below they share some of their best reads from the time they've been volunteering with us:

  • The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore - Paul Williams
  • Leisure by W.H. Davies;  A Little, Aloud - Lesley Tinsley
  • Invictus by W.E. Henley, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, Digging by Seamus Heaney - David
  • Blue Remembered Hills by A.E. Housman – it got me a lot more interested in poems - Daniel McCarthy
  • The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes – the most beautiful and romantic poem I have read so far - Siobhan Jones

Find out more about our Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme by visiting our website, or contacting our Volunteer Assistants Katie and Chris: katiestevenson@thereader.org.uk christopherlynn@thereader.org.uk

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