Accolades for Ferndown volunteer group

CONNECTING: (l-r) Cllr Toni Coombs, chairman of East Dorset District Council, nurse Lesley-Anne Clements, PramaLife East Dorset Manager Carol Davies, volunteer befriender Carole Emery and archaeologist and TV presenter Julian Richards. At the EDTC awards

A buddy-system that launched in Ferndown last year has been highly commended in the mayor’s Volunteer Awards.

Ferndown Community Connectors is headed by PramaLife, the community outreach programme, and helps those in the town who have lost confidence.

The ‘connectors’ buddy-up with those who need company to visit new groups or societies.

Also supported by Douch Family Funeral Directors that runs the Jolliffe branch in the town, the group received the prize form mayor Cllr Jean Read.

On top of that, the connectors were also nominated for the East Dorset Town Council’s community awards in the Best Community Project, category.

Cllr Toni Coombs, Chairman of East Dorset Town Council, presented them with their certificate.

And so successful has the group been that it is planning to expand.

Carol Davies from PramaLife, said: “It was absolutely brilliant to be recognised so shortly after we formed the group.

“We have a wonderful bank of buddies who assist people to reconnect back into their community by accompanying them to various clubs and groups, so they are not alone.

“Those who are recently bereaved or in need of confidence have found the service very useful.

“And it has been so successful that we intent to expand into the nearby villages and then possibly further afield.”



Note to editors: Douch Family Funeral Directors have been helping families with funeral arrangements for over 100 years. Branches include Douch & Small, A E Jolliffe & Son, Albert Marsh, James Smith, Ives & Shand and Lesley Shand Funeral Service. They’re based in Wimborne, Ferndown, Wareham, Poole, Upton, Wimborne, Swanage, Blandford and Corfe Mullen.

Ferndown Community Connectors originated as a direct call to action after hearing similar distressing stories of how isolated or lonely people didn’t want to attend clubs, groups or activities in their own Communities because they didn’t know anyone or have anyone to go with.  So, in January 2016 a new multi-organisational Community group was launched to provide a “buddy” for that person to attend activities, join groups and make new or re-connected friendships.

Ferndown, as we know, is the fifth largest town in Dorset, with a population nearly 20,000, incorporating the communities of, Hampreston, Longham, Stapehill and Tricketts Cross.  Ferndown adjoins the boundaries of the larger towns of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch and comprises of a large population of older people aged 65 plus (35%) with the majority of residents being in the age group of 16-64 (51%) and 40% of households in Ferndown having someone aged over 65 living in them.   Therefore, in a bid to combat isolation and/or loneliness in the varying groups we developed a multi- organisational Community Project comprising of PramaLIFE, POPP, St Mary’s Church, Penny’s Hill GP Practice, including Friends of the Practice, Orchid House and Turbary Road GP Practice, Jolliffe’s Funeral Directors as well as a professional Counsellor.

The need for a “buddy” service amongst isolated and/or lonely people continued to grow and a gap in the services we provide became all the clearer when hearing similar stories of people being signposted to groups and clubs with even transport arranged and yet still not wanting to attend because they didn’t know anyone or have anyone to attend with.  So, with that gap in the market identified we launched Ferndown Community Connectors, a short term low level “buddy/befriending” service that aims to connect people back with their community. 

People can lose their community connections for a variety of reasons; such as, a recent move or change in circumstances that has resulted in a loss of confidence and or motivation to explore what opportunities are available, in their local area.  It could also be someone recovering from a period of poor mental or physical health who has lost social connections and confidence and maybe wants to go to the local coffee shop but not on their own.

Ferndown Community Connector volunteers are fully trained, and DBS checked and will give their time freely to work with that individual to support them to re-connect back with their community with the volunteer being their “buddy”.  They may already have somewhere in mind to go but don’t want to go on their own. Once there, their confidence can grow, and they will be able to make new connections and so feel confident to attend without the need of the “buddy”. 

The “buddy`s” aim is to provide the vital emotional support needed the first couple of times and then to actively encourage social connections and friendships with others to prevent isolation and loneliness.  All the Community Connector volunteers are fully trained, DBS checked and are committed to supporting local people to connect back into their community and support this much needed service.

The service could accommodate up to 12 befriendees (based on 10-12 befrienders) and possibly more, if the volunteers would be prepared to see more than one at a time.  Obviously over time we expect to expand our service

Editor’s Note: For more information please contact: Ed Baker, Deep South Media, on 01202 534487, or Ed Baker on 07788392965.