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Mark shows talent with help from Olympian!

A SOUTHAMPTON man who is housebound due to the current pandemic is being helped to rediscover his love of art thanks to a charity-run befriending scheme in the city (December 2020).


Mark Compton, who struggles with depression and is a wheelchair user due to severe back pain, was befriended by Communicare volunteer, Lindsey Fraser and she challenged him to draw something.


Olympian and diving coach Lindsey, who represented Britain twice at the Olympics and has also competed at the Commonwealth Games, says: “In the first lockdown I became a telephone befriender for Communicare, which is dedicated to eradicating loneliness. I was allocated Bob and I talk to him once a week. In September, I was asked by the charity if I would also call Mark, as they thought I might be able to help him.


“Mark is in his 50s. He lives with his wife, who supports him, but she works full-time. He’s in regular contact with his GP and is awaiting support from the Community Mental Health Team to start back up. Mark used to be in the forces and was very active. He is an avid Saints fan and was a National Pool Champion and referee up until 2014 but unfortunately his back pain has hindered him from continuing with this. He is also an art lover and draws portraits.


“I talk to him once a week for around 20-30 minutes [and] I gave him the challenge to draw a picture because he hadn’t done anything for a week. He wasn’t getting out of bed and wasn’t even doing his sudokus which he loves. He told me not to tell him what to do but, nonetheless, it was the first thing he told me about the following week. I just asked him to do a drawing – he chose to Google me and find pictures and then made them into a picture of me! I think it’s very good, he’s a great artist!”


The calls that Lindsey and other Communicare volunteers make support isolated or vulnerable people in the city.


Mark says: “I enjoy having Lindsey as a telephone pal as she has experience of ex-forces people, so she understands the sense of humour that goes with that and I don't have to explain myself. She is also a very helpful and interesting person. We have mutual interests. I like her upbeat approach to life and the way she is forward thinking. Anybody ringing for a chat is good, as I am at home all the time at the moment and her calls have been very good for me. I really enjoyed doing the portrait, it gave me a purpose.”


Communicare’s service is particularly important with the current on-going pandemic, which is preventing people from socialising as normal, which can have an impact on their physical health and mental wellbeing.


Manager, Annie Clewlow says: “We’re looking for more kind-hearted people, like Lindsey. The feedback we’ve had from clients like Mark, has been fantastic and shows the real difference a regular phone call can make. Volunteers need access to a phone and the internet.”


Communicare, which is a friendly, neighbourhood charity, provides services that enrich the lives of lonely and isolated people in and around Southampton. Its services are staffed by its committed, kind-hearted Communiteers who volunteer and give their time freely.


Lindsey adds: “Telephone befriending gives both people involved something to look forward to each week. It doesn’t take up much time but is highly valuable to both of us.”


The work that Communicare does across Southampton is funded in part by grants but also by many fundraising events, which haven’t been able to go ahead this year.


One that is taking place, and has gone online, is its 12th annual Tree of Light campaign.


Annie says: “Our Tree of Light campaign allows everyone in the city and beyond to remember a lost loved-one at Christmas, as well as supporting our charity.


“The Mayor, Councillor Sue Blatchford is recording a message of support and, once again this year, one of the beautiful pines in the Woolston Millennium Garden will be covered in hundreds of sponsored lights to commemorate loved ones and special causes. This will be lit up by Monday, December 7. We are also having a remembrance tree illuminated at St Mark’s Church in Archer’s Road, Southampton. Sadly, we can’t hold our switch on events in the community this year.


“The names of those being remembered will be published in the Echo newspaper and we will record them in our remembrance book as in previous years. To find out more, please visit our website here https://communicareinsouthampton.org.uk/tree-of-light-2020/. The closing date for the Echo is Monday, December 14. But people can still donate and sponsor a light after that date if they wish. It will be too late for the Echo, but not too late for our remembrance book.


“Our Tree of Light represents an opportunity for anyone who wishes to support us to make a donation, so we can continue to help people like Mark who would need our help. To sponsor a light, Communicare suggests a minimum donation of £7 each.”


If you would like to sponsor a light this year, please click on the form (left) to download it and follow the instructions.


To volunteer for Communicare’s telephone befriending service, please visit www.communicareinsouthampton.org.uk.

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