In the UK today, one million older people will make it to the end of the month without speaking to anyone. Liverpool-based charity The Reader are hoping to address this shocking statistic by supporting older people experiencing loneliness, by taking part in a Christmas fundraising challenge.
Based in the heart of the city’s Calderstones Park, The Reader has been inspiring and supporting people to read aloud together since 2008. This simple act changes lives and strengthens communities; weekly Shared Reading groups have been shown to improve well-being, reduce social isolation and build resilience in diverse communities across the UK.
Julie Ledger, a volunteer based in Wirral, reads weekly with Betty, 95: “Reading with Betty is nice for me, she’s so positive, even on bad days she always says how lucky she is. I’m retired, I guess I’m an older person too but I hope I can be as positive as Betty when I’m 95. It’s good to see that it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom as you get older.”
Betty says “It really brightens my day, because I sit here and do my puzzles, I don’t see anybody some days, so when Julie comes on a Tuesday morning, it brightens my week. We do something different, the poems and the stories we read are different each time and we have such a good discussion about them. It’s a one-to-one discussion – why we enjoyed it, what we think it’s all about, you really get to the bottom of it. It gives me something to think about, something extra to think about, and I really, truly enjoy it.”
Each week, Reader staff and volunteers read with over 500 older people in care homes, community and residential settings. By taking part in The Big Give’s Christmas Challenge, The Reader hopes to recruit, train and support 20 more volunteers, just like Julie, to help a further 150 older people like Betty.
The Big Give’s Christmas Challenge is the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign, giving participating charities the chance to double any public donations received during a 72 hour window by pairing them with supporting Big Give Champions.
With the support of Postcode Support Trust and The Pilgrim Trust who have pledged to match fund £20,000 in public donations, The Reader has the opportunity to raise a total of £40,000. However, in order for public donations to be doubled, they must be made online during the Christmas Challenge which launches at 12noon on Giving Tuesday (November 29) and runs until 12noon on Friday December 2.
To mark the Big Give Christmas Challenge at their Calderstones HQ, The Reader will host a series of free festive fun events including poetry readings, film screenings and free children’s activities at The Reader Ice Cream Parlour, The Reader Café and The Storybarn.