This week, starting the 14 June, is Loneliness Awareness Week in the UK. The last year has been a real challenge for many of us in so many ways, with one of the biggest impacts of the pandemic being the loss of connection with other people, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation. In response to this, Farnham Maltings has been working in partnership with other local organisations to provide activities and support that help forge connections.
According to the Red Cross nationwide survey 41% of adults have said they felt lonelier than before the pandemic. These statistics and the experiences of the community were brought to the attention of Farnham Connects, a network facilitated by Farnham Maltings, that brings together statutory, voluntary and community organisations. Over the past year Farnham Connects has, with the town council, established a helpline, hardship fund and share store as well as exploring ways to maintain strong communications and community spirit across the town that support the vulnerable, local businesses and wider community. Many of the Farnham Connect members are regularly in contact with those feeling the effects of the pandemic and the subject of loneliness became a common theme in discussions.
Surrey County Council, who were aware of the coordinating efforts of Farnham Connects, had allocated funding to tackle loneliness in the Farnham area and decided to work through Farnham Connects to coordinate local priorities, ensure there was no duplication and communicate information quickly. The investments have enabled multiple new projects to start in the town, across a variety of locations and reached an extended, diverse range of people.
Farnham Neighbours’ Network has been in invested in to grow, take on new volunteers and support more people. The Neighbours Network is a buddying and befriending initiative that aims to build sustainable friendships, foster neighbourliness and provide practical support. It is a voluntary support network, run by Farnham Maltings and Farnham Town Council, connecting people person-to-person. A single volunteer looks out for someone who lives close by to them, a neighbour. Neighbours who are part of the network are paired based on proximity, interests and the support they are looking for or happy to give. Over time as the pandemic eases, the plan is to use this as a way to support people in returning to community activities. Stepping out the door with someone else is a lot easier than making the journey and going somewhere new on your own.
Farnham Men in Sheds, is a group for men in the local area who carry out woodworking projects for the local community, run by Farnham Maltings in collaboration with space2grow. The current group has been a big success and new investment is allowing a second group to start running.
Men in Sheds facilitates men building connections with one and other while helping the local community. Projects to date have included the construction of an outdoor wooden storage community cupboard for Hale Community Centre as part of their Fridge and Cupboard food-waste reduction scheme
Farnham Craft Café is a new project, which will soon be running twice a week, once at Farnham Maltings and once at Hale Community Centre. The Craft Café invites participants to 'Bring Your Own Craft' to work on or use some materials provided, and get chatting to other members of the group. There will also be a facilitator to help with any crafty questions and to show the group new techniques. The intention is to create a space for building new connections and people’s confidence in their abilities.
The activities and projects that have been produced by Farnham Maltings working with other organisations within Farnham Connects has demonstrated the importance of collaboration, and how organisations connecting can help create opportunities for the wider public to better connect with one another.
If you are looking to create activities that help tackle loneliness, or would like to find out about other existing activities in the town, please get in touch with Emily.