How you could join Sunderland’s cultural army

Books at Home volunteers Hilary Stephenson and Michael Knighton
Books at Home volunteers Hilary Stephenson and Michael Knighton
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WEARSIDERS are being encouraged to make a difference by becoming volunteers at one of the Sunderland’s many cultural attractions.

Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens is holding an open day between 10am and 6pm this Wednesday 15 January for anyone interested in becoming a volunteer.

This could include anything from storytelling sessions in the libraries to delivering craft activities or acting as a tour guide at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.

Other opportunities involve digitising photos of old Sunderland and other materials for the local studies section of the library and volunteering to help out at the award winning garden at Monkwearmouth Station Museum which is also looking for a volunteering co-ordinator.

There are also volunteering opportunities available at:

• The Arts Studio - recruiting on the day and there from 1-6pm

• Beckwiths Community Interest Group - recruiting on the day with a stand and representatives from 10am-6pm

• Royal Voluntary Service - there from 10am-3pm

• Churches Conservation Trust (Holy Trinity Church) - recruiting to volunteer opportunities with CCT nationally

• Sunderland Volunteer Centre - recruiting to a range of volunteer opportunities

• National Glass Centre - recruiting volunteers between 10am-4pm

• Library Services will also be recruiting volunteers through the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) for Books at Home Service and the Patients library service for Sunderland Royal.

• Sport and Leisure Healthy Initiatives - 10am-3pm - representatives will be available to discuss opportunities to volunteer to support the delivery of healthy initiatives across the city.

For retired teacher Hilary Stephens, volunteering has become a whole new way of life.

Hilary volunteered for the Books at Home service after retiring from teaching at Hasting Hill Primary School in 2007 and enjoys it so much she has just signed up for another volunteering role delivering books to patients in hospital.

Hilary said: “I retired as a teacher and I wanted something to do. I saw an advert in the echo about volunteering, they put me in touch with the RVS and it all happened from there.

“It’s just such a nice thing to do because people are always so pleased to see you. They’re so grateful and you meet some lovely people.”

Previously the scheme known as Books on Wheels, now known as Books at Home is being expanded so it can be available for anyone who can’t access library services because of their age, ill health, disability or long or short term mobility problems.

The scheme which is run jointly by the Royal Voluntary Society (RVS) and Sunderland City Council, involves volunteers delivering library books to people’s homes once a month and also acts as a befriending service.

It runs alongside the Patients Library Service at Sunderland Royal which provides patients with books during their stay in hospital and if needed refers them to the Books at home service when they leave.

Hilary does her weekly Books at Home round with fellow volunteer 84-year-old Michael Highton who has been volunteering for the last 12 years.

Added Hilary: “It’s very fulfilling. We visit people who don’t get many visitors because they’re housebound and we take books into care homes as well so it’s not just people in their own homes.

I think if you’re inclined to want to help people this is a really good way to do it. You’re just giving up a couple of hours a week but you’re making such a big difference to people’s lives.”

Councillor John Kelly, Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture at Sunderland City Council, said: “Volunteers like Hilary do a fantastic job and they always tell us that they get a lot of personal satisfaction out of it too so I would urge anyone who’s ever thought about volunteering to come along on the day and find out what it’s all about.

“There’ll be lots of people there only too happy to talk about the volunteering opportunities available and explain exactly what they involve so it should be a really interesting day.”

Anyone who you would like more information can contact the City Library on 0191 561 1235