The centre relies on volunteers to keep moving; volunteers who cook, walk, garden, mentor, guide and assist in all the groups and activities we offer. They are a fantastic group and many of our activities just wouldn't run at all without them. We have about 60 at any time, who give anything from an hour or two a month to six hours a week.
What do the volunteers get out of it? Friendship, fun, a sense of achievement and satisfaction that what they do makes a difference. Volunteering can also lead to paid employment. Apart from the fact that employers like to see commitment, work of any kind is good on a CV, and you can learn new skills and get relevant training that will be useful in work, such as a Level 2 Hygiene Certificate if you want to move in to catering. And it increases self-confidence and combats depression - what are you waiting for?!
If you'd like to find out more, call Annette 01963 31842, email AnnetteREMOVEREMOVEREMOVE@REMOVEBalsamCentreREMOVE.REMOVEorgREMOVE.REMOVEuk, or scroll down to see what some of our volunteers do. Keep going and you will find our current vacancies
This is Jazz, who has been a fantastic volunteer for the last two years. She has been coming in each week to cook in the cafe, and although she had little experience of cooking to begin with, Jazz very quickly picked up the skills she needed, chosing her dishes and cooking with real flair - no one will forget that Lemon Meringue Pie! We - and the Loose Ends diners - are sorry to see her go but excited for her as she embarks on her next adventure! Good luck, Jazz!
As one volunteer put it, “Volunteering does wonders for your mind, body and spirit, especially if you’re feeling isolated or out on a limb after a big change. It’s a way to plug yourself in again and get charged up."
Ali, Simon and Lu have won the Ramblers Volunteering Award in the Inspiring Walkers Category for all their hard work to get our weekly Short Walks up and running, both from the Balsam Centre and from the Medical Centre. We are so proud of them! They were so determined to get this going, to encourage more people to walk for their physical and mental health. The walks are well and truly established and have a growing band of regular walkers who attend. WELL DONE!
The Job Club recommended Hanna, with her interest in cooking, volunteer in the cafe. Thanks to some funding, we placed her daughter in the nursery, whilst Hanna cooked with our volunteer chef. Hanna even persuaded a friend to join her and when the chef left, they took on the cafe and ran it very successfully for 2 years, not only helping us but cooking the meals for the Stroke Club once a month too.
Hanna decided that with these new skills she wanted to start her own catering company, "Mmm...Delicious", and with help from the Prince's Trust, has now secured premises in Wincanton and she is set to fly! We wish her well!
Winning funding for a new volunteer project is always exciting. One such project brought together skilled volunteers with people who were unemployed or retired. The cafe has often been the source of ideas and one of our regular diners suggested lawnmower maintenance, as he had so many broken ones. When Pat came into volunteer it was the perfect opportunity to start a workshop.
Pat was a retired mechanic and a whizz with anything mechanical. Gradually, he worked through the collection of lawnmowers with our original diner, along with a few others from the community.
Rachel is a young trained nurse who led a busy life in London until she became ill with MS. The pressures of working in a stressful job and coping with her illness reached crisis point and Rachel left and returned to her family home in Somerset.
Rachel needed to know if she could work in a less stressful situation, and what her options were. Volunteering gave her time out to re-think, whilst working with people who needed her help, giving her confidence to apply for other work. Although sad to see her go, we are delighted that she is now in a less stressful job.
June is a retired teacher who gets great pleasure from reading and wants to pass it on. People who left school with inadequate reading and writing skills hide it for years, often claiming they forgot their glasses, and, embarrassed, struggle on alone. On a one-to-one basis, June helps adults to read and write.
Penny was a speech therapist whose chance visit coincided with a call from a parent whose daughter had her speech therapy cut back. Penny gave the girl time and support for a year, during which time we all noticed the changes, and her mother has seen her daughter develop in to a very chatty 7 year old.
We are enthusiastic about walking, running short health walks & longer 3 - 5 mile hikes, all led entirely by a team of volunteers.
Ali has started the much shorter health walks for those unused to walking or daunted by a hike. Her team has now grown to 5 leaders, with her second shorter walk now established. The results have been very positive with noticeably increased fitness amongst the regulars.
Berry became a walk leader whilst looking for a new career. His long walks were popular - perhaps because some of them ended in lunch! He also ran the London Marathon to raise £1500 for us, before finding a new career in accountancy.
James was a Youth Worker who moved to Wincanton after retirement. Not knowing anyone in the area, he came to the Balsam Centre to meet people and offer his time. His love of nature naturally led him towards volunteering in the gardens, but his experience in mentoring and youth work also meant we were able to direct him to Promise, a charity that mentors young people in need.
James volunteered in the gardens, passing on his knowledge of wild flowers, (he is often found with seeds in his pocket to scatter in the hedgerows!) and helped to keep the bindweed at bay. He has also been a valuable member of the Child's Advocacy team for Promise.
Continuing the proof that you are neither too young nor too old to start volunteering, students from King Arthur's Community School have been coming to volunteer with us on Tuesdays, serving the lunches and the coffee/tea in the cafe, and socialising with the diners.
The cafe likes to get people chatting, but to approach people you don't know can be awkward and difficult; Claire, one of our first students, found it difficult too. A year on and you wouldn't guess she had ever been so shy. By the end of her time with us she had decided she wanted a career in social care. She has now left KA and is pursuing her career through Strode College but drops in occasionally to keep us updated.
Julie was brought in by a friend. She had recently been bereaved and was feeling understandably lost. Julie has limited mobility - but this has never stopped our volunteers. What she enjoyed - and missed - was playing games like Scrabble. And she wanted to learn how to play Bridge.
Working with the idea that there must be other people who enjoy games, who felt equally lonely, we suggested starting a Games Club which would be run by Julie. Starting with Scrabble we now have a boxful of games and a successful club that meets twice a week. Julie not only gets much needed social time but provides the opportunity for others to benefit too. And we found a volunteer tutor to teach Bridge!
We are looking to set up an international cooking group, so people can share the cooking skills and knowledge of their home cooking. The added benefit for those who are looking to improve their English is that they can practice in a fun, friendly environment.
You don't have to be an expert cook or English teacher. Being friendly and patient, enjoying meeting other people and being part of a group are far more important skills for this group.
We'd love to see this take off, but we have no funding so we are looking to get it started as a volunteer led group. We are still working on the idea and if you would like to be a part of it, then contact Annette 01963 31842.
There is a new group on the horizon - a Repair Cafe, a place to bring that broken radio or toaster to see if it can be fixed. And if it can't be fixed, then what about turning it into something else?!
We have a small group of volunteers who are interested in getting this started, so we are looking for other volunteers who might like to get involved, to join a rota of people who would like to fix stuff rather than see it thrown out, and would like to help. If you have a skill you think would be helpful to the group, soldering, electronics, or are keen to learn, please contact Annette, 01963 31842.
We run drop-ins, and workshops at the centre and out in the community, and are always on the lookout for skilled people to help us. Being skilled doesn't necessarily mean having a qualification in that skill, although it can help - you may not even realise how skilled you are! For a young person, using their mobile phone is as simple as smiling; they can not only make calls but send texts, use Instagram... but for someone older who has got a mobile for the first time it's more trouble than the tv remote.
The drop-ins are for anyone with a tablet, laptop or smartphone who may want to know how to attach a photo to an email - or just be reminded how to email; and the workshops might be about Excel, Word, how to Ebay, etc, showing them how to set up email or Skype, or how to surf safely online. If you are confident using technology and have the patience to explain how it works, then this could be the ideal role for you.
We have several women who have requested woodworking or DIY maintenance sessions but at the moment we have no volunteers to run them. We would like to run a session a week on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday. We have tools and equipment, we're just missing the person with the know-how!
If you have experience of putting up a straight shelf, changing a tap washer, or some basic woodworking skills that you would enjoy sharing, then please get in touch with Annette.
Currently, we have four teams of walk leaders, one for the long walks, one for the two short walks, one for the Buggy Walks at Stourhead and one for the Buggy Walks in Wincanton, with some crossover. The long walks have lost a few leaders in the last year as volunteers move on, so we now have a few vacancies. We are also re-starting Buggy Walks in Wincanton and are looking for walk leaders to share the rota with.
Long walks happen once a week and ideally each pair of walkers leads once a month. It means planning the walk in advance for the brochure and then walking it prior to leading it, ensuring it is safe for the group. The Buggy Walks in Wincanton will be walking once a week too, and you can lead a walk with your buggy too. "Walking for Health" provide the training. We have a regular, friendly group of walkers so if you like being active and outdoors, this is a role you will enjoy. You will have a training session on walk leading and you can also have a training session on using OSMaps to plan and follow walks on a smartphone but you don't have to use a phone to lead a walk!
Many people are isolated and lonely, and whilst there is the Live at Home Scheme to help older people, we have found there are plenty of younger people who would benefit from some help. We have built a small team of befrienders / mentors who work with young people and mums who are experiencing some difficulties or loneliness in their lives. The volunteer might help them get out of the house - go for a walk with them, or just sit and have a cup of tea, chat, and listen.
We are looking for volunteers who are patient, enjoy being with people and would like to help someone else achieve some simple goals or offer some company once a week. Interested? Please get in touch with Annette.
Do you like children? Our pre-school nursery is looking for volunteers who would like to get involved. It could be coming in to read to the children for 30 minutes a week - the children LOVE this! Or helping out at meal times, doing 30 minutes clear-up. After lunch children go out to play so it's all hands to the deck to help clear away and making sure the children have the their coats and boots on. Or maybe you just enjoy working with the babies. Whatever it is, we would be delighted to welcome you!
Volunteers are supervised at all times and we will carry out a DBS check for you. How much time you will give will be up to you but we would like you to commit to the same time each week or month.
The gardens around the Balsam Centre are used and cared for by The Growing Space, who are looking for volunteers to garden on a Thursday. We don't expect you to garden come rain or shine; most of us are fair weather gardeners. What we are looking for are people who can tell the difference between Bindweed and Clematis, summer weeders who can carefully remove weeds without damaging the plants.
If you would like to look after one of the beds, or someone to work with someone more experienced in the garden, drop in and see Annette or Nick.
The Balsam Centre is an independent charity set up by local people for local people.
Whilst the work of the Centre is long term, funding for its projects and services is all too frequently short term.
It is largely thanks to help from a fund created by a legacy left by one person, that the Balsam Centre has been able to continue its mental health work over the last few years. The help that this has given hundreds of people is a permanent and living memorial to that person’s generosity.
If you are thinking of donating, have you considered becoming a Friend of the Balsam Centre? This is a commitment to regular giving of any amount, at any interval, by standing order, and even better, if you are a UK tax payer and you ‘tick’ to say so, we can claim another 25% on top of your donation to support the work of the Centre. Become a Friend here!
We have signed up to be a part of Give As You Live where you can raise money for us - just by shopping online in your normal way! All you have to do is click on the link, choose your charity - The Balsam Centre - and then create an account.
The site will ask for your name, email address and a password. You can choose your favourite shops, or just use their search bar to find the product you are looking for. When you buy in this way, the retailer will donate an amount to us, and you can see exactly what you have donated. This is a great way for people who would like to support us to do so whilst doing their normal online shopping! All the big retailers are there, Amazon, Ebay, supermarkets, and department stores. Happy Shopping! And thank you for supporting us!!
We now have a Virgin Giving charity page where you can donate directly, and Virgin will collect the tax for us! Just click on the button below.