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First minister backs kindness campaign

This news post is 12 months old
 

The Scottish Government has announced a further £6m to help tackle loneliness and isolation

The First Minister has got behind a nationwide Christmas campaign tackling isolation and loneliness by making a Kindness Call to someone in need.

The call from Nicola Sturgeon also comes as the Scottish Government announced £6 million worth of funding into a range of projects aimed at tackling social isolation and loneliness – including £75,000 for Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland’s (CHSS) Kindness Caller Programme.

As part of the Christmas Together campaign, she called Chris Smith, age 70, from Springfield in Fife and his Kindness Call volunteer Freya Riley, 18, from Kelty.

Chris, who is registered blind but still has some sight, had a stroke back in April and once discharged from hospital was at home, alone due to lockdown. He receives Kindness Calls twice a week from primary teaching student Freya and they have become good friends.

The Christmas Together campaign in Scotland is a joint initiative with Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland and the Together Coalition which seeks to ensure this festive period brings people together. They are calling for Scots to do two things:

  1. Reach out to someone who’d like to hear from them and make sure no one feels alone - It could be a neighbour who lives alone or is shielding, a family member they haven’t been in touch with for a while or even someone they have fallen out with.
  2. Sign up to make a ‘kindness call’ as a volunteer - Volunteers can sign up at www.chss.org.uk/together. Those in need of support can ask for help online via www.chss.org.uk/together or can request a kindness call by calling freephone 0808 8010 899, with lines open 9.30am to 4pm Monday to Friday. 

Scottish Government research suggests that lockdown had a big impact on people’s feeling of isolation and loneliness – with 40% of people stating they felt lonely, up from 21% pre-COVID.   

The First Minister joins other high-profile figures including actor Michael Sheen and Sophie Ellis-Bextor in backing the campaign.

Sturgeon said: “It was great to speak to Chris and Freya. We talked about the passion they have for food and how much the calls they share every week matter to them.

“It’s clear that the kindness calls make a huge difference to both of them – and have really helped Chris at a difficult time.   

“Words will never be able to describe how tough this pandemic has been for people across the country. But even small acts of kindness like a phone call to someone who may be feeling lonely can give so much hope.

“The last few months have been difficult for us all so let’s do what we can to reach out, look after each other and make sure nobody feels alone this Christmas.”

Chris, who receives two calls a week, said:  “It was brilliant to speak to the First Minister. She was really kind and I talked to her about how important the calls are to me.

“It was also lovely that Freya was on the call too because she is my hero.

“I really look forward to my calls with her. I call her my wee sunshine. She really brightens up my day.

“We have such a laugh and a joke. We’ve become great pals.  It’s so nice that she gives up her time twice a week to check in with me and we talk for about an hour.  She’s always on time and I know I can count on her call. 

“Her calls have been so good for me, it cheers me up no end knowing there is someone at the end of the phone.”

Freya said: “I can’t believe Nicola Sturgeon joined our call! It was such a great experience, I loved it.  

“Chris and I were strangers at the start, but now we’re definitely friends. We’ve got each other Christmas presents!

“I love hearing his stories. I look forward to our calls as we always have a laugh. It feels good to know that you are making a difference to someone’s life, but Chris also makes a difference to mine. My grandparents passed away so it’s lovely to hear Chris’ tales and get his take on things. 

“I would say to people that they should definitely volunteer to help someone this Christmas. Imagine if your grandparents were alone just now, you would want to make sure that they were able to chat to someone. The gift of kindness makes a huge difference”.  

Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland chief executive Jane-Claire Judson, said: “Loneliness and isolation is one of the biggest threats to the nation’s physical and mental health – and the pandemic has made it worse.

“Every one of us has the power to end loneliness, by sharing a bit of kindness. By becoming a Kindness Volunteer like Freya you can change the life of someone like Chris.

“Thirty minutes of your time will mean everything to someone who is lonely.”

 

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