Farnham Neighbours’ Network is a new buddying initiative, aiming to foster sustainable friendship and neighbourliness in Farnham, providing practical support and combatting loneliness. Run by Farnham Maltings in partnership with Farnham Town Council, Farnham Neighbours’ Network is a voluntary support network, connecting people person-to-person. A single volunteer looks out for someone who lives close by to them, a neighbour.

The idea for Farnham Neighbours’ Network sprung from running the Farnham and Villages Coronavirus Helpline which delivered emergency support to over 2,000 local residents by coordinating volunteer shopping and prescription pick up. In August, with loosening restrictions and the helpline on pause, it became clear that the support the helpline had given should not just be for times of national crisis, but for all times.

This is the simplest of ideas”, explains Gavin Stride, Director of Farnham Maltings. “Through the first stage of lockdown we were heartened by the generosity and latent goodwill there is in our community. Through Farnham Neighbours’ Network we have tried to create a simple, safe way for people to care for each other, street by street.

Whilst anecdotal evidence suggested increasing neighbourliness over the last lockdown, recent research from Essex and Manchester universities has revealed that neighbourhood cohesion declined during the summer of 2020, suggesting that there was “significant work to be done to build up community cohesion as the local lockdowns continue this winter and when the pandemic has passed.” Farnham Neighbours’ Network is designed to do exactly this. Much of the value of the Neighbours’ Network lies in knowing you are being connected with someone just down the road.

Neighbours are paired based on three areas: proximity, interests or the support they are looking for or happy to give. In the first lockdown, Helpline Volunteer Louise wanted to know how to support others in the community. She was “delighted to be paired with an elderly gentleman, who had recently lost his wife and wanted someone to talk to. [She] started calling him on a weekly basis and found [they had] so much to talk about”. The connection was so positive for both parties that they decided they wanted to carry on with the connection as part of Farnham Neighbours’ Network.

Councillor Pat Evans, Mayor of Farnham says: “The Farnham Neighbours Network is another example of excellent collaboration between the Farnham Maltings and Farnham Town Council building on the Coronavirus Helpline. The buddying scheme formalises what has been happening in many neighbourhoods but with guidance and support also available for the DBS checked volunteers.

Have you got a few hours to spare? Could you help someone who needs company or assistance with practical tasks? Two neighbours who are part of the network might have social phone calls or meet up in person. Volunteers are asked to consider collecting prescriptions, assisting someone with learning how to use a new piece of technology, or helping with gardening or light DIY.

Or perhaps you, or someone you know, could benefit from some extra neighbourly support? If you’re interested in joining Farnham Neighbours’ Network contact the Farnham Neighbours’ Network Coordinator on 01252 745 428.

Relationships will be encouraged to adapt where necessary in order to stay Covid compliant and safe; for example, with the current restrictions there are no in-home visits.

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