Helping folk find love is uniquely rewarding

Hayley Ostler, Love4Life co-ordinator 

Picture: Sarah Standing (161609-4423)
Hayley Ostler, Love4Life co-ordinator Picture: Sarah Standing (161609-4423)
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They give their time to help adults with learning disabilities to find friendship and love.

And now, Love4Life is looking for more people to become volunteers.

The charity, supported by Fitzroy, holds events to give adults with learning disabilities the chance to socialise and meet others.

Previously known as Stars in the Sky, the group looks to reduce loneliness for vulnerable people.

Managed by Hayley Ostler, Love4Life – based in Fareham – has far more members than ever before and needs more volunteers to organise its social events.

Hayley says: ‘Since becoming Love4Life we have almost doubled the number of members we have.

‘In the past 10 months we have seen loads more people sign up and we are almost at 100 members.

‘A lot of services like this have been affected by cuts but it is great to see that we are able to grow and get more people involved.’

Stars in the Sky signed up with Fitzroy, which supports disability charities, after a lack of funding saw it almost close. It rebranded as Love4Life, offering a similar service to before but with the security and support from Fitzroy.

Thanks to the extra support, it has been able to hold more events but needs volunteers so they can reach more people.

Hayley adds: ‘With an increase of members, we have got a demand for more events. For more events, we need volunteers.

‘We run 10 events a month but we want to increase them if we can, so more members can attend them. If we get enough volunteers, we could even look at running two events at the same time in different areas.

‘They can also chaperone dates so we can organise more of them too.

‘If someone is sociable, good at communicating and loves having fun, then they should consider joining us.

‘They don’t even have to spare a lot of time – just a couple hours a week or a month will make a difference.’

The charity is looking for as many volunteers as possible to sign up.

‘We just want to help as many people as possible to find friendship and possibly relationships,’ Hayley says.

‘Over the last few years we have seen friendships grow and quite a few marriages.

‘Nothing can describe the feeling of helping two people find love.’

Love4Life has people from across the south getting in touch to use its service.

The charity covers Portsmouth, Fareham, Waterlooville and Southampton but also other parts of Hampshire and further afield to Salisbury.

Beth Vaughan, the marketing and fundraising manager at Fitzroy, praised the work of Love4Life saying it is crucial for adults in the area.

‘We had a relationship with Stars in the Sky, which we knew could only continue if it had funding,’ she says.

‘We knew it was facing closure but we couldn’t allow that to happen.

‘Now it has been rebranded, we launched a huge fundraising push which has helped to keep it going and help it grow.’

Beth adds: ‘It is such an important service, it is vital.

‘Finding friends and love is something everyone has a right to. It is just as important as having food every day. We take for granted what it means to have friends and finding something meaningful.

‘When people aren’t being sociable, it leads to isolation and bad health.’

Beth also said by coming to Love4Life people are protected from those who might take advantage of them. During the social events, the volunteers also help the members look for jobs or join other groups.

It also looks at volunteer work that members can do to boost their social skills and interaction with others.

With a push to get funding and more volunteers Hayley is looking forward to the future. She says: ‘We’re really excited for the future and what it has to offer.

‘Now we are becoming more well-known, we can reach more people and help more. We want to give our members every opportunity to find love and friendship.’

For more see fitzroy.org/love4life-about/

As well as needing crucial funding, Love4Life is reliant on volunteers helping out.

The service requires people to give their time to help members find friendship and love.

And manager Hayley Ostler said it is not just the members who benefit from the social events.

‘A lot of our volunteers say helping out improves their lives too,’ she says.

‘We mentor them, give them support and give them confidence in working with people with disabilities.

‘There is a huge amount of satisfaction that goes with watching other people’s lives changing.

‘A lot of them say it is fun changing people’s lives and helping them with jobs and just generally making them happier.

‘We get to be a part of something like that.

‘The volunteers often feel the affects of the members themselves.’

Hayley adds that a lot of the volunteers end up having a career in care or they use Love4Life to help them in their carer job roles.

She says it offers a great work experience for people thinking about being a carer and helping others.

‘People work hard and get the experience they need,’ she adds.

For more information on becoming a volunteer contact Hayley at hayley.ostler@fitzroy.org or call 01329 826423.