Drongan Health Initiative
Drongan Health Initiative was set up as a voluntary organisation – everyone involved in it is a volunteer, including myself. The project was set up to look at how the community can improve health and quality of life.
Volunteering in a small community like this is a dedication thing – I think in small communities you are more likely to find groups run by volunteers as there is already a high level of community spirit – that’s why our project thrives. The volunteers are all dedicated, supported and they enjoy participating.
Youths on Old Bikes Scheme are part of the Drongan Health Initiative. Adult volunteers go out into the community and collect orders from older people which they them make up back at the centre. We buy the fruit and veg from the local store and myself or one of the other volunteers checks it over for quality – it goes back if it isn’t good enough. The prices have hardly gone up at all in the 5 years since the project started because we ask the shops to tender for the contract.
Then the kids go out and deliver the fruit and veg to the customers. We have anything from 25 – 30 clients being delivered to by 6-8 kids aged 12 –17 year old.
The customers are not obliged to order from us every week and they can order as little or as much as they want. If they only want one apple and one orange, that’s fine! This way, those who can be most isolated in a community are contacted twice a week – once by the person taking an order and once by the young person delivering the goods.
We’re very careful about access and safety, of course. There’s quite a long lead in time before a young person is allowed to go out and deliver on their own. We introduce the older person to the young person first and make sure that both sides feel comfortable before we let them out on their own to deliver. We are also clear that the older person should not give them money, or presents at Christmas, although small tokens of appreciation like a wee sweetie is OK. We keep the service within a particular time slot on a Saturday so people aren’t waiting around and if we are held up for any reason, they get a phone call. The young person is told not to visit the customer in between visits and we give them walkie-talkies in the winter months so we know when their visit is finished and they are heading back to the centre. We also get the parents to give written consent before the kids can participate.
Because we are a volunteer led programme, the local Volunteer Centre has been invaluable to us as a source of advice – anything from developing volunteering policies, referring volunteers to us, passing on our details to other groups who are interested in our services. I can phone Gail or Ann at the Volunteer Centre and bounce ideas of them. They really are brilliant and have supported us through so much.
The Volunteer Centre also nominated us for the Philip Lawrence Award. I didn’t know a thing about it until I got a phone call that I had to go down and meet the Duchess of Kent! The award recognises the achievements of young people in their community and it’s the first time they have given it to a project as small as ours. I think they liked the fact it is so simple to set up and maintain and has such benefits to both young and old, as well as to health.
There’s a lot of fear of young people in our country and I think our project helps change perspectives on both sides. Old people get to see that young people aren’t so frightening when they get to know them and young people get to see that older people aren’t always complaining about their behaviour. It really builds relationships and builds respect on both sides. For instance, the older kids who participate in other parts of our project are organising a disco in October and are giving the proceeds to pay for the Old Folks Christmas dinner.
I used to work in Social Work but had to take early retirement due to being diagnosed with MS. It was quite a blow and I felt I have nothing left to give. My volunteering lets me continue to my skills and it fits around when I have to go into hospital, or my health is not so good.