3 ISSUES FOR JUST £3 Subscribe to Essex Life today click here

Epping’s Helping Hands

PUBLISHED: 13:27 08 May 2017 | UPDATED: 13:28 08 May 2017

'Epping Water Tower', diamond geezer, Flickr CC 2.0

'Epping Water Tower', diamond geezer, Flickr CC 2.0


Being at the end of the London Underground’s Central Line, Epping has long been popular with those looking to travel out if commuting, or travel in if visiting the capital. But Epping is much more than just a travel hub and a keen group of locals are on hand to make sure Epping’s charms are kept in top condition


Epping is a civil parish situated in the Epping Forest District of Essex. An attractive market town with good shopping, bars and restaurants – there is much for the local resident and visitor to appreciate. The district has many attractions including, of course, Epping Forest – great for woody walks and recreation – but Copped Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge and the Epping Ongar Railway are also well worth a visit.

The district’s residents are served well by local amenities. However, like all communities, Epping and its surrounding area has its fair share of vulnerable people who perhaps find it hard to take part in all the town has to offer, not to mention finding many aspects of their daily lives a struggle.


The good news is that there is a great resource available to help them to not only keep in touch with their community, but also in coping as much as possible with life’s little, and sometimes big, challenges.

The Epping-based Voluntary Action Epping Forest (VAEF) group has been operating since 1993 and has steadily expanded over the years in response to local need.

Jacqui Foile is the organisation’s chief officer and explains more about how the group works to help members of the community in need.


‘Although we provide our own core service, we are in essence an umbrella organisation offering support for various charities in the district,’ says Jacqui. ‘We have a volunteer centre that recruits local volunteers who are then placed with local charities to fulfil many different roles, such as environmental work, drivers, working with older people and even helping with the region’s animal charities as well.

‘VAEF also places people with learning disabilities who are keen to volunteer – often in groups – giving them the chance to do some good and feel included at the same time. We also organise music and singing groups, furniture upcycling and allotments for those with learning disabilities.’


Jacqui and her team are on hand to help groups and charities with funding application forms along with keeping everyone involved in local volunteering up to date with regular newsletters and bulletins about events and new projects. They also hold Voluntary Sector Forums which regularly host guest speakers.

Jacqui continues: ‘We consider it our role to look for gaps in providing help for local needs and where funding can benefit those who really need help. In particular, we look for projects to support our older population.

For example, our Gardening Project involves many of our senior citizens who are keen to stay in their own homes and live life as independently as possible, but often maintaining their gardens is hard. Seeing their gardens become untidy is upsetting for them, so our gardening volunteers are a welcome help.

It is also considered a good way to lessen crime in communities as an unkempt garden can perhaps send out a signal that someone vulnerable lives on the premises and could be a target. I am happy to say the benefits work both ways with this project, as our volunteers say that they not only enjoy what they do, but they keep fit too and it is cheaper than joining the gym!

‘We also run a befriending project, funded by the Big Lottery, which supports older citizens often in the early stages of dementia. The project mini-bus collects people weekly from key points in the district and brings them together to enjoy a game of bingo and just generally interact with people. We also organise trips out which, for many of them, provides vital and much-needed interaction as many wouldn’t otherwise have regular contact with others.’

VAEF receives funding from sources such as Epping Forest District Council, Essex County Council and local Clinical Commissioning Groups but, like every volunteer supported organisation, is always looking for more financial support in order to help extend their good work.

‘We would love more local businesses to get involved in perhaps sponsoring a project. We can in turn help promote their business and they can be confident that their money is being used in the community to good effect. It doesn’t have to be a vast sum of money – even a small amount can go a long way.’

Jacqui believes that by providing help and support to vulnerable people, the VAEF is quite possibly helping to save costs in the long-run.

‘Our Home Safety Project, which offers a Falls Prevention Service, visits people in the home and fits grab rails, stair rails, tacks down carpets and even supplies new slippers. Although there is a cost to this, if we can prevent a fall which might result in someone needing a hip replacement or any injury requiring a hospital stay and rehabilitation, then we are helping to relieve the strain on an already stretched public purse.’

VAEF has a team of around 50 volunteers, but they are very keen to have more people to join the ranks – to help make a difference to someone’s life.

One volunteer is Sophie Smith. Sophie, who helps with the administration of the Gardening Project, says: ‘Helping with VAEF is hugely rewarding and being involved in something that is so important to the community is very satisfying. I love coming into the office for my weekly stint and this is my fourth year – everyone here is so nice and friendly.

We have different people in different departments all dealing with various projects and all trying to contribute positively to something that is massively important to our community. In my department, we organise three employed gardeners to go out with the volunteers to help mainly older residents with their gardens. We get such good feedback that I keep it on file.’

Jacqui concludes: ‘We are supporting people out there in the community, especially the vulnerable, hopefully making their lives a little nicer and helping avoid some of life’s crises where we can.’

Find out more

For more information on the VAEF service or to volunteer, please visit www.vaef.org.uk


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Essex Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Essex Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Essex Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The history and heritage of our county’s historic homes is not only contained within their walls but it also stretches out into the land surrounding it. We’ve found 11 great walks that allow you to experience that history first hand

Read more
Thursday, September 6, 2018

Your favourite county magazine, Essex Life, has joined forces with Channels Estate near Chelmsford for another Strike it Red event — an Autumn Splendour Supper and Fashion Show on Thursday, September 20

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

If you have never been to a ploughing match, this month is a great time to put that right as the The Ongar Ploughing Match marks its 100th event. Ralph Metson explains more

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

New research by TotallyMoney suggests Essex is one of the best counties for London commuter hotspots. Based on average house price, length of commute by train and the cost of an annual train ticket these are the best commuter towns in Essex

Read more
Sunday, August 26, 2018

Essex is home to some of the most stunning vistas in the UK. From the estuary of River Thames to the North Sea coastline, the county’s scenery is a diverse patchwork of stunning sea views, ancient architecture and vibrant gardens. We pick 9 of our favourites

Read more
Thursday, August 16, 2018

Words and photos: Laurie Page Public Rights of Way Team at Essex County Council

Read more
Thursday, August 16, 2018

Spend Halloween hunting down ghouls and ghosts in the county’s most haunted places and spaces. We pick 10 absolutely terrifying locations to visit this October.

Read more
Thursday, August 16, 2018

No one knows Essex better than the people of Essex; we asked where the prettiest places to live were, and you let us know. So, without further ado, here are the prettiest places, suggested by you

Read more
Tuesday, August 14, 2018

From weatherboarded beach huts to famous names treading the boards at the Summer Theatre, Frinton on Sea has an elegance that makes it stand out brightly as a seaside resort, says Petra Hornsby

Read more
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

From James Bond to Batman, Essex has been known to bask in a little Hollywood glitz. Here are 19 that have used our county’s incredible locations on the big screen

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Job search in your local area

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search