Village group’s founder retires

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Jo Evans BEM has retired from Rotherfield St Martins, (RSM,) the community group she founded, after 15 years.

She made the announcement at the group’s AGM and 10th anniversary celebrations attended by more than 150 well-wishers, members and volunteers.

Guests included Lord Lieutenant Peter Field, Barby Dashwood-Morris, chair of Wealden District Council, and Polly Evans from BBC’s South East Today.

RSM chair Andy Miller, Mrs Dashwood-Morris and Mr Field praised Jo’s work supporting health and wellbeing of older people in Rotherfield as well as helping other communities set up similar models – and GP Dr John Davies described the impact RSM’s has on patients’ health and the difference it has made to many lives.

Jo set up RSM after realising that many older people’s illnesses were made worse by loneliness. She believes they can remain healthy and happy in their own homes. Ten years after the RSM’s Centre’s official opening with six members it now looks after more than 350 local members. Last year it organised more than 500 volunteer drives to health appointments, ran 180 exercise classes, 160 social activities and a three-day ‘Holiday at Home’ programme. Other groups are involved including the primary school and residents who volunteer their time. Jo has also mentored other villages to set up their own support projects including Forest Row, Mayfield, Herstmonceux and Buxted.

RSM has now started supporting those living with dementia and their carers and was awarded £16,500 from Awards for All, Charles Hayward Foundation and East Sussex Women of the Year to develop the work. Jo said: ‘After 15 years I decided to hang up my RSM cloak. I am so grateful to everyone for supporting the charity and me in particular. RSM would never have succeeded if wasn’t for the belief, trust and amazing generosity of spirit of the people of Rotherfield.”

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