Mattishall Volunteer Hub – supporting the vulnerable in the community

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Click here to read information on the status of Community Action Norfolk's Services. As well as links to other information and advice
This website uses cookies. You can read more about how we use your personal data in our Privacy Notice

We often feature articles about the inspiring initiatives happening in response to Covid-19. Except they don’t just happen – they’re the result of innovative, often spontaneous efforts by local individuals who see a need in their community.  Mattishall Volunteer Hub (MVH) is a great example of someone taking the brave decision to take action in response to that need.

Mattishall Volunteer Hubs begins

Who better informed to tell the story than Helen Brook, MVH Coordinator? Here is the story in Helen's own words. 

"Mattishall Volunteer Hub (MVH) began life in the very first week of the lockdown in response to the Coronavirus pandemic and is still going strong. In the early days there was no way of knowing if such a project was viable, or just how long it would be required, but here we are still providing a much-needed and equally well-appreciated service to our community and even making plans for our future in the form of a regular Good Neighbour Scheme! 

"From the very beginning it has been a case of ‘learning on the go’ by seeing how other, similar projects were run and seeking advice from various official bodies. The first job was to let people know that we existed, who we were, what we were doing and how to contact us. Social media proved effective and posters and leaflets were hastily distributed around the villages. The number of people who came forward to volunteer was overwhelming and by the end of April there were 45 volunteers on the register. Getting the word out to the people who needed our service was more of a challenge especially as many do not have internet access, and they were not going out to the places where they would be able to see our advertising, so we relied heavily – and still do  - on word of mouth recommendation. 

Advice and support is available 

"Fairly soon we had a policy document in place and were getting fantastic support and guidance, particularly from Community Action Norfolk as well as Breckland Council. MVH is also registered with Covid-19 Mutual Community Aid UK and we were listed in the EDP’s ‘Here to Help’ pages. Most of our volunteers are now registered with CAN’s Good Neighbour Response Team giving us free insurance and DBS checks, which has been a huge help. In May MVH applied to Norfolk Community Foundation for a modest grant from their Covid-19 Community Response Fund which, happily, we were awarded. So far, this has enabled us to fund the telephone helpline and ID and PPE for the volunteers as well as providing other means of support.

What MVH has achieved 

"With the Covid-19 restrictions it was decided that travel between villages should be kept to a minimum so volunteers were only recruited from Mattishall and Welborne in order to support and assist the residents of those two communities. Although the lockdown restrictions prevented us from offering to transport people in our vehicles or going into people’s houses, we have still managed to provide essential help in many other ways. 

"As with most other Covid-19 response volunteer groups our main ‘business’ is the collection and delivery of prescriptions and medications. I think that we’re all now on first name terms with Mattishall Pharmacy staff! (They also use our service when their own resources are stretched). Second only to prescriptions has been shopping and collecting pre-paid orders, then a whole variety of tasks ranging from posting and collecting letters and parcels, gardening and dog-walking through to social contact by telephone and letter and even hand-delivering a birthday present! The majority of jobs that we do are for our more elderly residents but we’re happy to help anyone who is restricted by the pandemic guidelines and we have been supporting a whole range of people from children through to nonagenarians!  

"For those of you who like to have the statistics, by week 20 (week ending 14th August) we had successfully completed a total of 267 tasks for 84 of our residents. 

"Also, as part of our remit to support everyone in the community who needs help during the pandemic, a team of MVH volunteers spent three (very hot!) afternoons at Mattishall Primary School painting walls, benches and railings to help brighten up the outdoor spaces for the children. Earlier in the lockdown we also delivered a donation of over 80 Easter eggs to our ‘clients’ which, while not necessarily essential, was a bit of a treat for people who were in isolation and even elicited this delightful response: 

'Thank you, definitely lifted my Grand-dad’s spirits, which lasted longer than the egg!'

'Here’s how some of our other residents who have benefited from MVH’s support have also expressed their appreciation.

'I can’t put into words how grateful I am – none of know how something that seems small to one person is huge to another so, thank you very much.'

'The volunteers are doing a great job.'

'Thank you very much Mattishall Volunteer Hub, we very much appreciate your efforts.'

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the wonderful volunteers who have been, and continue to be, incredibly willing and generous even though most have other work and/or family demands on their time.  Due to the recent easing of the lockdown restrictions, many have now had to return to work or cut back their availability due to other changes in circumstance but we have a core of 25-30 people who are still out and about providing our services. The volunteers have been motivated by wanting to give something back to their community and have enjoyed making new connections and friends as much as the recipients of their help.

'I joined MVH when it was first set up – I have to say that it has been an enjoyable experience, particularly getting to know one lady who I shop for most weeks.'

'It’s been a pleasure to serve my community and provide a lifeline to people who are shielding. I’m encourage by the fact that MVH is going to become a permanent feature in our village.'

'I wanted to join MVH to give a little back in return for the wonderful support that I had previously received from the community. During the lockdown I have been supporting people by telephone and by writing letters to an elderly resident.'

"The local community has been generally very supportive with many businesses, church personnel, the GPs and other individuals helpfully sharing our information. We have had leaflets printed at no charge for us by one resident and another Mattishall lady made and donated some lovely face masks for the volunteers as a ‘thank you.’ Despite having to live with the very difficult lockdown situation, often with additional problems to contend with such as illness of loneliness, we, as volunteers, have only ever been met with smiling faces and appreciation from the residents who we have been supporting which really does make the project feel like a worthwhile cause.

"As far as starting up the Mattishall Volunteer Hub, apart from a fair bit of experience working variously in Social Services and Education, I did rather throw myself in at the deep end when I rashly suggested the idea of a volunteer response team. There were obstacles to deal with but I took the attitude that it was an unprecedented situation so, to some extent, normal rules did not apply and rather than wait for the proposal of such a project to be subjected to the usual delays, that we should simply get on with it! With our safeguarding guidelines and with the relevant advice, particularly from CAN, I’m happy to report that we have not encountered any problems and have so far managed to successfully complete every single one of the jobs that we have been asked to do. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the willingness and generosity of all of our volunteers. I am very pleased and proud of what MVH has achieved to date and very grateful to all of the Mattishall and Welborne residents, especially the fabulous volunteers, who have had faith in me to co-ordinate the project!" 

Looking to the future 

'Moving forward, as part of our involvement with CAN, we are now taking MVH from its initial remit as a Covid-19 Response Team into a more general and, hopefully, permanent Good Neighbour Team. As restrictions continue to be lifted we will look to extend the services that we can provide. Meanwhile, Mattishall Volunteer Hub continues to provide support to anyone in Mattishall or Welborne who is still being affected in any way by the restrictions of the Coronavirus pandemic.'

Helen adds that MVH’s Policy Document is available to read – email Helen at [email protected]  for a copy. And if anyone in Mattishall or Welborne needs help, or knows of anyone who might, or would like to volunteer with MVH, please contact Helen on 07940 764588 or at [email protected]

Read more about our network of Good neighbour Schemes here and, if you’d like advice and support in setting up or managing your community support group, do contact CAN on 01362 698216 or email [email protected]

The Norfolk VCSE Covid-19 Story

This is part of a series of examples of the huge contribution made by local VCSE organisations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. To understand more about the pivotal role played by Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise organisations in Norfolk’s Covid-19 response effort please read our Norfolk VCSE Covid-19 Story page.