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Tackling social isolation with the love of Christ

How The Link Visiting Scheme, started by a church in Berkshire, is helping to reduce social isolation among older people ...

How The Link Visiting Scheme, started by a church in Berkshire, is helping to reduce social isolation among older people ...

It was a community survey, carried out by Woodley Baptist Church near Reading in 1998 that got the ball rolling.

The church found that social isolation among older men and women was a real concern, so they let GP surgeries and social workers know they could help.

“This initially led to three ladies being referred to us,” explains Jeremy Sharpe, national director of The Link Visiting Scheme.

“We then matched a volunteer to each older person for a weekly visit of around one hour.”

Now, 16 years on, more than 160 people from across Wokingham Borough who would otherwise have little or no social contact are receiving regular visits.

A number of these ‘Link Friends’ had been suffering with varying levels of depression and anxiety, but says Jeremy,  the project is helping to widen their social circles and regain confidence and self-esteem.

He adds:  “It has also been really exciting to see the way that God has grown the work from a small community project to a wider partnership between local churches serving a wider area.

“In more recent years we’ve been able to support churches across the UK to set up similar schemes.”

As the charity’s work has grown, it has had to adapt its way of operating to ensure it continues to support both the Link Friends and their volunteers.

But it has remained focused on reaching increasing numbers of isolated people in the borough rather than being side-tracked into other initiatives.

Link’s vision is to see more befriending schemes set up and run by local churches and Christian organisations in villages, towns and cities right across the UK.

It wants to help to combat the big problem of social isolation among many more older people and change their lives for the better.

www.linkvisiting.org

Would you like a grant of £1,500-£3,000 to start a church-based community project?
The Cinnamon Network is trying to make it as easy as possible for local churches to serve those people most at need in their communities. Get started at www.cinnamonnetwork.co.uk

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