The Fed’s Community Services department based at Heathlands Village in Prestwich welcomed a new member of staff to its ranks last November with the arrival of 30 year old Avital Gilbey. Five months into her role as one of five coordinators in the ‘volunteering@thefed’ team, she and colleagues recently caught up with the charity’s Communications Officer, Robert Marks.
“Avital’s a breath of fresh air!” enthused her manager, Juliette Pearce. “She was brought in to focus on the needs of the south Manchester community and has quickly begun to make a very positive impact.
She’s working as part of one big team covering the entire Manchester Jewish community – both north and south of the city – which is based alongside our The Fed’s Community Advice and Support Team (CAST). There are great benefits to our service users in siting our projects under one roof – above all the immediate access to our social workers and support workers providing people with a more holistic service.
While office-wise Avital is based in north Manchester she’s regularly out and about, visiting and assessing people in their south Manchester homes.”
Avital describes how she “got thrown in at the deep-end” when she arrived: “The team were in the throes of arranging a big Chanukah party for service users at Wicker Lane shul in south Manchester. It was all systems go! But the event was brilliant with over 50 Fed clients, supported by around 20 volunteers. It really brought home to me how much benefit The Fed brings to people’s lives.”
Avital’s explained how her role will see her “arranging support for people of all ages who face a whole variety of challenges – whether chronic physical illness, mental health issues or loneliness and social isolation which sadly are a feature of life for so many people, not only older people.”
Bernie Garner, Director of Community Services at The Fed added: “A large part of Avital’s role is also about developing our services to reach more people in need living in south Manchester, by forging stronger links with community organisations and shuls such as Hale and Yeshurun in Gatley. The Fed believes that greater partnership work between us and shuls, luncheon clubs and similar institutions, will result in people being better supported.
The Fed has to be flexible, and evolve with the ever-changing needs of the community. In particular we want to make sure people living in areas where the communities have shrunk over recent decades, do not fall through the net. We want to reconnect people. Avital will help further this ‘linked-up’ approach which will also involve care homes caring for Jewish people and Trafford Council from whom we received a winter resilience grant to partly fund her salary.
All of this is aimed at keeping people independent and well, and importantly in terms of their psychological health – in touch with their local communities.”
“There is so much to be done and so many people who will benefit from the work we are doing. This is a really exciting challenge for me,” adds Avital.
Volunteering@thefed also runs the Heritage Lottery funded ‘The Fed My Voice’ project with volunteers befriending Holocaust survivors and refugees and being involved at all stages of the production of individual life story books. These are intended as keep-sakes to pass on to their families and future generations and focus especially on documenting people’s lives before the Holocaust and rebuilt post-Second World War here in the UK.
Another regular feature of the team’s work is the organisation of the charity’s extremely popular monthly ‘coffee-stops’ which bring groups of clients together to socialise.
The team anticipate an extremely busy few weeks ahead with the annual springtime peak in requests for help with Pesach shopping. Volunteer recruitment and training officer, Dalia Kauffman, stressed the need for more people to step forward and offer an hour or two of their time. She explained: “We are always short of volunteers. We have about 400 currently on our books but believe it or not this simply isn’t enough.
I’ve been working very closely with Avital since she joined us, in a drive to recruit more people to do one-to-one volunteering. I cannot emphasise enough how important this is. There is a huge need for support in the south Manchester community – from people who are affiliated to those living very much on the perimeter of the community. People need help with getting their shopping, doing errands, getting to hospital and of course people are terribly, terribly lonely.
There are clients we have been taking to The Christie for treatment – some with zero connection to community – and when they see how volunteering@thefed helps them they are in awe.
But the last thing we want is to keep people waiting once they’ve taken the step of getting in touch with us for help. We really are desperate for more volunteers.”
All new referrals for volunteer or CAST support are made to The Fed’s daily advice and referral officer on 0161 772 4800 (option 2) or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone wishing to offer their services as a volunteer should get in touch with Dalia on 0161 772 4800 (option 2).