CELEBS have been getting on the phone to solitary and isolated people to cheer them up with a chat as part of The Sun’s Christmas Together appeal to combat loneliness.
We have teamed up with the Together Coalition, a band of community groups and organisations led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Royal Voluntary Service.
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We are urging readers to join our volunteers to make “check-in-and-chat” calls to those who may feel isolated and vulnerable, or to help with errands, shopping and prescription deliveries.
Our drive is backed by the Jo Cox Foundation, whose Great Winter Get Together is also urging people to help others in their communities.
As many more people face spending the festive period alone due to increased Covid restrictions, it is more important than ever that we support one another.
Here, a few of the famous faces involved tell Natasha Harding and Emma Pietras about the calls they made.
The Sun’s Christmas Together campaign
THIS Christmas we are teaming up with the Together Campaign, a coalition of community groups and organisations, and Royal Voluntary Service to combat loneliness.
And we want to recruit an army of volunteers to support those feeling cut off, anxious and isolated, this Christmas.
Could YOU reach out to someone who might be struggling and alone?
It might be someone you know in your own life or community who needs support.
Or we can connect you with someone in need through the NHS Volunteer responder programme run by the NHS, Royal Voluntary Service and the GoodSAM app.
Could you give up half an hour to make a call and chat with someone feeling isolated? Or could you volunteer to deliver essential shopping or festive treats?
Go to nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk/christmastogether to sign up as a volunteer.
You will then receive an email taking you through the sign up process and be asked to download the responder app which will match you to those in need in your area.
Don’t worry if you don’t get a job straight away, because jobs are matched according to the need local to you. Being ready to help is what really matters.
'Talking with Sylvia brought such a smile to my face'
TV and radio star Maya, 26, spoke to Sylvia Plumridge, 90, of Horsham, West Sussex.
The mum of two lives alone in supported accommodation and has felt very lonely during the pandemic since her check-in-and-chat phone volunteer had to end her caring role after giving birth.
Maya said: “It was an absolute joy to speak to Sylvia, what a gorgeous lady. She lives alone and has her son in her support bubble but she can often feel lonely.
“She watches the news every day and has been following all the developments on the vaccine — she was more up to date than me!
“Sylvia was very chatty and we had a good giggle. We talked about how Christmas will be different this year. She will spend it with her son and I told her I will be in London.
“She told me about her memories growing up in the Kent countryside.
“We discussed our mutual frustration with video calls, whether we should get our legs out, especially at this time of year, and our strange food cravings.
“I like a pizza and spaghetti bolognese sandwich, while Sylvia played it safer with pickled onions.
“I told her I was thinking of getting a cat or a dog and she helped me debate which.
“She’s not a cat lady, so it was an easy decision. It was genuinely lovely to connect with her and it is such a simple thing to do.
"Talking with Sylvia brought such a smile to my face and I’d really urge anyone who has a bit of free time and wants to help make a difference to support The Sun’s Christmas Together campaign this year and the brilliant work of the Royal Voluntary Service.
“I also promised I’d send her a secret signal on my next presenting job, to let her know I was thinking of her.”
Sylvia said: “Maya told me all about her life, which was so interesting. I haven’t seen her programmes but I’m going to make an effort to watch her in future.
I’d really urge anyone who has a bit of free time to help make a difference.
“In return I told her all about my life and the things I like to do and how I’ve kept occupied this year.
“I’ve been keeping myself as busy as possible. Thank goodness for the Horsham Library Service.
“They deliver eight wonderful books to me to read whenever I want them and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them this year.
“I spend a lot of time alone looking at my own four walls, so phone calls are such a lifeline. It’s lovely to have a good chat.”
'It's important to remember some people are finding life hard'
CHART star Sophie, 41, had a Zoom chat with Owen McGhee, 51, who lives in Scarborough, North Yorks.
Single Owen lives alone and has been left virtually housebound after a fall in January. He also suffers from depression and is unable to work due to health problems.
Sophie said: “Owen and I discovered we had quite a few things in common. We’re both into music. He’s just discovered TikTok and likes learning the dance routines.
“I’ve started following him on TikTok and he’s much better at it than me.”
Sophie now hopes to chat to another person and is encouraging Sun readers to do the same.
She said: “With the first lockdown it was spring but winter is when the cracks start to show.
“It’s important to remember that some people are finding life quite hard.
“A friend recently said to me, ‘We are all in the same storm, but not everyone is in the same boat’, which was so apt.”
And she said of check-in-and-chat calls: “It’s not a huge commitment and it’s a great way to make new friends.”
Owen said: “I must admit I was a bit starstruck for the first few minutes and had to pinch myself that it was really happening, but Sophie is so down to earth.
“She is really natural, it was just like chatting with an old friend.
“We chatted about all sorts, like tattoos — she has one on her arm and I’ve got one on my leg.
“We also talked about our family situation. I’m one of five and she has five boys.”
It was just like chatting with an old friend.
He added: “We talked about the effect loneliness can have on you. I have someone who calls me regularly for a check-in-and-chat call.
“He is there to bounce things off. It makes a real difference. It’s little things like these that I really appreciate.
“The past few months have been a nightmare. I’ve only just started walking again. Both my sisters live far away and I have been unable to see them.
“The only people I have seen are my therapist and someone from the housing association.”
Can you help?
Could YOU reach out to someone struggling and alone to help with shopping or prescriptions?
We can connect you with someone in need through the NHS Volunteer responder programme run by the NHS, Royal Voluntary Service and the GoodSAM app.
Go to www.nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk/christmastogether to sign up as a volunteer.
Need help? If you are someone who would like a friendly call or you need a helping hand with your shopping, just call 0808 196 3646 (8am-8pm, seven days a week).
'The call to Kate made my day – we had a lot in common'
LONDON-born singer Peter, 47, spoke to Kate Hemus, 76, from Preston, who has been shielding throughout the pandemic following extensive treatment for cancer.
Kate, a retired university English lecturer, lives with husband Dave, 79, a retired teacher.
Peter said: “The call really made my day.
“We spoke for a while about different things and about taking baby steps and slightly going out of your comfort zone.
“We’ve kept in touch since, and she’s got a great sense of humour.
"I really want her to believe she can do this — that she can achieve those days that she had before and just realise she can do things and achieve the things she wants.
“So I’ll be keeping in touch and I’ve told her to keep me informed of her progress.
“I’ve told her to please understand there are going to be good days and bad days.
“But whenever there is a bad day, she needs to know good days are coming. Just appreciate every one of them.
“They do come, even if they are not every day. But they do come.”
Kate says: “It was an absolute delight to speak to Pete.
“He was so positive and lovely. I can’t say enough nice things about him.
“I’ve really struggled to go outside lately and he told me a lovely story about the importance of putting one foot in front of the other and just taking it slowly.
"I listened to his advice and he got me outside today. For that, I’m grateful.
“He said he’s had times when he hasn’t wanted to go out and it was good to talk to someone who could relate to how I’ve felt.
"He even gave me his personal email and told me to let him know if I’d done it — no pressure then!
“Surprisingly, we had a lot in common, including our love of the Irish comedian Dave Allen.
“We laughed so much while we chatted.
“We spoke for over an hour, and I think we probably could have talked for even longer. I can’t thank him enough.”
Kate and husband Dave have three children but they don’t live nearby.
She says: “I’m in the extremely vulnerable category and Dave has got cancer too so I was not keen on him going out.
“We’ve got each other but we see nobody.
“We had a very good social life and were very active before all this but that just stopped.
“We’ve only seen our three grandchildren three times since March.”
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