SIAA’s members Dunfermline Advocacy aim to provide a lifeline in the community, linking local citizens, of all ages, with people facing barriers to inclusion. To continue delivering this vital service during lockdown, Dunfermline Advocacy came up with some fantastic and innovative strategies to connect with the people who needed it the most.

Their Friendship Changing Lives Project supports socially isolated, vulnerable adults through long-term Citizen Advocacy. Citizen Advocates aim to build lasting meaningful connections and mutually beneficial relationships with our advocacy partners. For many people, their Citizen Advocate is the only person not paid to be in their life and here the impact of this cannot be overstated.

Dunfermline Advocacy matches partners and volunteers around shared interests, as well as other things, to help promote long-term, trusting partnerships. Advocates are then able to get to know and build an understanding of their partner’s situation and views whilst sharing hobbies and interests that they both enjoy.

When a volunteer starts providing advocacy to a partner, meeting in person is a key factor to begin the partnership. Therefore, creating new partnerships throughout lockdown periods proved to be challenging. However, since some partnerships shared an interest in videogames, the project encouraged this activity and was able to create meaningful bonds and connections, even virtually.

One of Dunfermline Advocacy’s citizen advocates with an interest in gaming said:

“I have been in a partnership for almost a year now. While my partner was a bit hesitant with having an advocate (even thinking that an advocate was a “fake friend” before I became an advocate) over time the more we talked, the more they understood what an advocate really was and how that could help them. It has been a slow process learning what’s important to them but it has never been stressful. I feel like being there has had an impact on their life. Before the pandemic, we went to the theatres to see a film, something they haven’t done in almost a decade because they had no one to go with. Another example is that they never really had the chance to play local multiplayer games.

“Being in this partnership has also got me into new hobbies. Their enthusiasm and talent in art got me interested in actually trying my hand at it.  I’m not good at it but despite that they have been helping me with tips, tricks, and encouragement to help me improve. This is something I never expected to happen when I started, however, it’s very welcome, as drawing brings me a lot of joy, something I would have never realized if I didn’t volunteer”.

The organisation’s work is funded by the National Lottery, Robertson Trust, and Henry Smith Charity.

Becoming a volunteer can be really rewarding, as each partnership is unique and agreed on by both advocate and their partner. If you’re interested in learning more about how to join Dunfermline Advocacy as a volunteer, please visit their website.

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