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Harnessing HenPower

245. Alan Richards

A retired Gateshead taxi-driver who took a leading role to launch a programme which tackles isolation amongst older people with chickens.

Alan Richards, 77, helped develop the ‘HenPower Project’ – a volunteer-led programme which houses hens in care homes, giving older people a chance to care for and hatch chicks.

Since the project launched in 2012, 14 HenPower projects are flourishing across the North East with more than 300 care home residents are now actively involved in keeping chickens. The project reduces loneliness and depression and staff in dementia care settings have reported a reduction in the use of anti-psychotic medication. A

Along with a team of fellow volunteers known as ‘hensioners’, Alan is actively involved in regular hen roadshows, which see residents take their chickens to other care homes and primary schools, with return visits by pupils. Alan’s enthusiasm for the project has even seen pensioners change care homes so they can access the scheme, and £1 million has now been awarded by the National Lottery for a national roll-out of the programme. 

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Alan and his fellow ‘hen-sioners’ have developed a unique way to support care home residents. The quirky HenPower project has a serious impact, reducing the depression and loneliness that residents can sometimes feel. I’m pleased to recognise Alan’s innovative volunteering with the 245th UK Point of Light award.”

Alan said:

“I am just so surprised to get this award. Never did I think I would do anything that deserves an award from the Prime Minister. In the HenPower project we are a team and there are various other volunteers and I accept this on behalf of us all. Three years ago when I first heard a bit HenPower I thought it was a ridiculous idea. I never imagined it would come to this and I would get so involved and enjoy it so much. I have been to places I’ve always wanted to visit and met so many new people. Some people call it volunteering, I see it as just helping out. For anyone thinking of volunteering I’d definitely say get out there and do something different, give it go.” 

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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