Sidmouth community proves it has a big heart

Volunteer Stuart Coles. Picture: Sid Valley Help

Sid Valley Help volunteer Stuart Coles has been busy over the past year - Credit: Sid Valley Help

I am constantly amazed at the generosity of strangers and how much effort and money people are willing to give for those they do not know.

Last Friday, like many of you, I watched the Comic Relief 2021 programme and was again amazed at the generosity of the public. As usual a group of comedians and other showbiz personalities made us laugh and persuaded us to part with our money. It is a great recipe for raising difficult and worthy issues that need support this year more than ever, like mental health. High profile individuals have lent their weight to this campaign, including the Duke of Cambridge, but all appealing to us to recognise the increase in need that this pandemic will have brought to supporting people’s wellbeing. Roman Kemp’s highly praised documentary about male suicide also added to the increasing level of awareness about mental health last week. Locally there is also a lot to be done, but many charities and providers of wellbeing support are waiting until more can be done face-to-face. In the meantime if you feel you need someone to talk to and are struggling to cope, try TALKWORKS for a free self-referring service. Call 0300 555 3344 or you can self refer online TALKWORKS.dpt.nhs.uk

At a local level, what a big-hearted community we live in. Sid Valley Help operates as a signposting service for health and wellbeing services in and around the valley. Most of these are run by volunteers and operate with miniscule budgets mostly donated by our generous community. We have all read about local charities that have extended their usual service to help people during this last year of the pandemic and neighbours and friends have supported people who are shielding and unable to get out for shopping.

However, during this time people have other cares and concerns and rely on local charities for support: Sidmouth Hospice at Home for those with life limiting illness; Sidmouth Living with Cancer who have continued to support their members; Gateway who help the homeless or those at risk of losing their homes and of course Sidmouth Food Bank who every week support an increasing number of people with food supplies. There are numerous others and apologies for leaving you out of this article. The point I am making is that as a community we have a lot of charities that support us in times of need and we shouldn’t take it for granted.

Last week this paper had the inspiring photo and article of Ella Robinson doing her fundraising challenge for her best friend. Inside of the paper Kilda Giraudon described his trash into cash project to help build a school in Africa. Further into the paper, the new community garden scheme at Port Royal illustrates what happens when people work together to achieve a shared end result. John Hart, leader of Devon County Council praised our community spirit in Devon for keeping Coronavirus numbers down in this area. Linked to our wellbeing as a community are many other groups that have volunteers working on environmental projects for the community like Friends of the Byes, Sidmouth Arboretum, the Sid Vale Association and Sidmouth in Bloom. These groups have volunteers that have continued to work safely together during lockdown and we enjoy their efforts as we walk around town. We are surrounded by generous volunteers.

The more sceptical of us will say that volunteers gain as much as those they support and quite right too. There are hundreds of people in this community who volunteer to raise our spirits and make our life better, whether arts groups, sport clubs or those supporting people who are unwell. We all do it because it makes us feel more worthwhile or keeps us busy, but it also keeps us connected and most of us smile while we do it. Try it!

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