We're supporting a telephone befriending scheme for elderly and vulnerable people so they don't feel lonely while they stay safe by self-isolating at home.
A £200,000 donation from our charitable arm, the Asda Foundation, will enable the Royal Voluntary Service to make 100,000 calls to people on their own during the lockdown.
The charity will provide a vital link to the outside world to people who are cut off physically and socially while they stay at home, with volunteers offering a friendly chat, checking how the person they're calling is bearing up physically and mentally and discussing other sources of help if they need it.
Sam Ward, Director of Services and Deputy CEO at Royal Voluntary Service, says our support will make a big difference.
She said: "Prolonged periods without seeing or speaking to anyone can be hugely detrimental to people’s well-being. The Asda Foundation’s incredibly generous donation means that our volunteers will be able to reach out to people that are feeling the impact of isolation the most acutely.
"Currently, we’re not able to bring people together in person through our community groups and clubs so it’s vitally important that we use other ways to help people stay connected and to remind them that someone cares."
Companionship calls are already underway for Royal Voluntary Service volunteer Liz Greig.
She said: “This event has scared a lot of our participants. When we phone to check that they are coping, they tell us how grateful they are to be able to chat with someone. They say that the support we’re giving makes them feel that they are not going through this time on their own.”
The Asda Foundation has been working with Royal Voluntary Service since 2016, donating over £1m for volunteers to provide practical support to thousands of older people through community companionship programmes, dining clubs and community shed spaces, and Christmas hamper deliveries.
Liz Cotterill, the community champion at our Warrington store, is an RVS volunteer.
Liz, who two years ago set up a friendship group for people who may otherwise be lonely – pictured here before the social distancing rules were introduced – said: "I have made a few phone calls to friendship group ladies and gents each week to keep us all connected. This is an absolutely amazing community response to such strange times."
Sharon Kingswood, the community champion at our Dewsbury store, is also a keen supporter of RVS and works closely with volunteers who are delivering food parcels to vulnerable people during the lockdown.
Sharon, pictured here presenting a cheque to pay for a Christmas lunch for local RVS volunteers, said: "RVS is an amazing charity doing such important work.
"The volunteers do it in their own time and it's a big thing they're doing. They don't just shop for people – they're there to have a conversation and provide friendship, which people need more than ever during the lockdown."
Here's Colleen Heaney, the community champion at our Omagh store, presenting an Asda Foundation grant to Gortin Men's Shed, a group supported by RVS for people to share tools, resources and skills to create and learn, as well as developing social networks:
And Stephanie Rogers, the community champion at our Kilkeel store, presented an Asda Foundation cheque to another men's shed group, Rostrevor Men’s Shed, to help pay for woodworking equipment:
Read more about some of the schemes supported by Asda Foundation grants here.
Alexandra Preston, Asda Foundation Manager, said: “We know that for many of the most vulnerable in our communities, the impact of having to self-isolate, stay away from loved ones and being housebound will be very upsetting and can cause them to feel lonely or isolated. Community connections are a vital part of human society and we’re proud that with this £200,000 donation the Royal Voluntary Service will be able to use these funds to provide a reassuring call from a friendly volunteer to those who need it the most."
Royal Voluntary Service is one of Britain’s largest volunteering charities with volunteers supporting thousands of people each month in hospitals and in the community. The charity is also one of the largest retailers in the NHS with its network of cafes and shops providing a valued haven in hospitals.
To find out more about Royal Voluntary Service, how to get involved with local volunteering opportunities, or to make a donation visit royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk