How volunteers are using 'Elmer' the motorhome to bring isolated people together in Rugby - and how you can help

Volunteers are using a motorhome nicknamed 'Elmer' to bring isolated Rugbeians together as part of a project partially funded by Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe.

Thursday, 9th January 2020, 12:29 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th January 2020, 12:31 pm
Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe (right) with, from left: Tina Latham, Dawn Ramshaw, Miriam Sitch, Lucy Catling, in front of Elmer.

The ‘Making Connexions’ initiative is run by Rugby and Daventry Methodist Circuit and sees volunteers taking a special motorhome out across the borough.

They offer information and advice on the support services available from organisations and statutory services, as well as providing surplus food and a friendly face to talk to for some of the most vulnerable people.

Social isolation can affect people from all backgrounds and circumstances and is hard to identify and provide solutions for.

Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe (right) with, from left: Miriam Sitch, Dawn Ramshaw, Tina Latham and Lucy Catling enjoying a brew at the Elmer motorhome.

By taking the support service on the road, the team which is based out of The Chapel Newbold, is able to provide outreach to people at a familiar location - helping break down some of the barriers that would otherwise exist.

The motorhome has been nicknamed ‘Elmer’ after the popular children’s books by David McKee, which showcase themes of acceptance and diversity.

Founded was motivated by her own experience of isolation

Lucy Catling, pioneer chaplain for Making Connexions and The Chapel Newbold, was motivated to start up the service from her own experience of being isolated.

She said: “My passion for this came out of the fact that I had several years where I was very isolated myself, because I suffer from ME.

“I had about six-and-a-half years where I was housebound and pretty much bedbound for that time.

"From that I gained an understanding of what it was like to be socially isolated.

"I identify with the fact that people need a lot of support to be able to get out of that place.

“Connecting with people in their actual communities is important, especially for those who are struggling, maybe through anxiety or different mental health issues, to get out of the home.

"That could be as victims of crime, for example, which can make it very difficult to get out.

“The hope is to engage with people and then to help them to have the confidence to engage with other things in the community.”

How is the project funded?

The project has been awarded £5,000 from the Commissioner’s Annual Grants Fund, which is helping to pay the staff costs associated with running the service.

Donations from a range of other organisations provide the remainder of the project's funding, as well as practical items such as surplus food and other goods which can be donated to members of the community who are unable to shop for themselves or are otherwise in need.

Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Seccombe said: “Vulnerability comes in many forms and those who are socially isolated are, by their very nature, hard to identify and support.

"I’ve been keen through my grants scheme to help a range of diverse initiatives which can make a difference in communities, particularly in areas where policing alone will not solve the problem.

“Those who are socially isolated can often find themselves vulnerable as victims of crime, so it’s really important to find new ways to try and help them.

"I’m really keen to see how the Making Connexions initiative continues to develop and I’m delighted to be able to provide financial support to enable it to get out into the community.”

The group is seeking more volunteers

It is hoped that ‘Elmer’ will be able to get out to a variety of locations across Rugby three to four times a week once more volunteers come forward.

In particular, the project is looking for volunteer befrienders who can drive the motorhome - which requires only a standard driving licence.

Funding is also needed to ensure the sustainability of the Making Connexions. Anyone interested in offering their help and time should contact Lucy at: The Chapel Newbold, Main Street, Newbold CV21 1HH or email: [email protected] You can view more information at: www.facebook.com/elmermakingconnexions.