Enthusiastic volunteers in Barrow are enjoying renewed zest for life and a fresh passion for their home town thanks to a multi-project scheme called Helping Hands.

The innovative, two-year initiative aims to dispel the obstacles to volunteering within Cumbria's cultural sector.

Helping Hands connects individuals to opportunities within the arts and heritage organisations across the county, providing one-on-one mentoring and ongoing support.

Since the project was kick-started, an impressive 228 people have come on board as volunteers.

Among them, 42 have become part of the trio of projects currently in motion in Barrow: BarrowFull, Art Gene, and Signal Film & Media.

Among them is Mark Curwen, a volunteer with BarrowFull, a creative arts project. He credits it with helping him get from his "lowest point" to having an "enjoyment for life" again and a passion for his hometown.

He said: “Volunteering has absolutely awoken a beast inside me, it really has. It’s given me the enjoyment of life, it’s given me a passion for my hometown.”

A fellow volunteer, Hugh McGregor, shares his experience with Signal Film & Media.

“I hope volunteering will bring me to be more independent, not relying too much on others, be more confident in myself and help me to get a proper job,” Hugh said.

“Signal Film & Media has helped with my confidence, being a bit independent about learning new skills. It’s also helped me to make new friends.”

Helping Hands has been given £500,000 in Government funding.

This provision enables the project to support new volunteers, extending its reach to groups traditionally underrepresented in volunteering.

Inclusive volunteer lead Verity Shillabeer said: “Volunteering via Helping Hands, I think, is great for anyone who is a bit apprehensive to volunteer otherwise, because we provide that extra support. Whatever your barrier is, we have staff whose whole job is to help you.

“Helping Hands is different because we provide personalised support for all of our volunteers. That can include one-on-one meetings to get to know what their needs and interests are."

Having more than 70 volunteering possibilities listed online, Helping Hands covers a broad spectrum of roles across the community.

Managed by Cumbria Museum Partnership and funded by Arts Council England, the programme partners with 45 Cumbrian organisations.

Helping Hands also collaborates with local entities such as Anti Racist Cumbria, Multicultural Cumbria, Cumbria Deaf Association, and the Triple A (Autism) Project to provide training and advocacy for individual volunteers.

Visit www.helpinghandscumbria.org