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Volunteer Week 2021

VTL Lucy Swann | Why I Volunteer

I’ve worked as a Volunteer Manager since I left secondary school teaching in 2008, in various different charities. In 2010-11 I was a lecturer at Birmingham University in ‘Volunteering in the Heritage Sector’ (niche, anyone? Haha) and this showed me how misunderstood volunteers can sometimes be.

There was often an air of suspicion about why people wanted to get involved- and so since then I’ve made it my mission to help raise the profile of volunteering and help organisations to engage with volunteers in the best possible way. I couldn’t really do this without being a volunteer and understanding what it meant from both sides- so I got involved.

My first volunteer management role was with Age UK, and I volunteered along side this role in a Dementia Care Home, doing arts and crafts with the residents. When I was a teacher I taught Art and Design, so this fitted in well. It was something I enjoyed and wanted to share with others, which also benefitted the wellbeing of those taking part (plus there were no kids, bonus!).

When I moved on from Age UK, I continued to volunteer in various care homes for older people and those with learning disabilities, until last year when the pandemic arrived. I built such wonderful relationships with the residents, and the feeling of joy when I arrived with my bag of paints and stuff was absolutely electric, honestly, like a carnival every time. I can tell you that there is no warm and fuzzy feeling like it, especially one which you can achieve in a couple of hours on a Saturday morning.

I did arts and craft but just being with the residents was enough. I was so happy to bring so many smiles. Me being there enabled the busy care staff to get on with other tasks, and the chat and activity we did together took people’s minds off things, which were bothering them, helped them bond with others and have a chance to try something new. We often ended up sitting and chatting- but happily we also created plenty of artwork for community exhibitions and to send home to parents, family and carers. We also had a LOT of sing-a-longs and hilarious moments. I stopped volunteering with vulnerable adults in this way when the pandemic hit, for obvious reasons. I signed up straight away to be an NHS Responder, and then Responder Plus (to volunteer with vulnerable patients), Patient Transport and Vaccine Steward. I’ve felt really privileged to be involved with NHS Responders and just glad to be able to help really. I complete this role in my lunch time, at the weekend or after work. It’s not a role which takes a lot of time, just helping people with their shopping, collecting prescriptions, giving them a ring for a chat or driving patients to appointments. You can choose when you take up a task and so it fits in really well with life.

The pandemic has affected us all so much, it’s felt good to be doing my little tiny bit to help the recovery, and those who are isolated. Plus, it means that I’ve been able to have ACTUAL CONVERSTATIONS with real life people who are not my husband or the dog, or on Zoom.

Literally anyone can be a volunteer and any skills you have will likely be gratefully received by volunteer engaging organisations across the UK. A great place to begin is something like befriending or mentoring, but if there is a charity or organisation which is close to your heart, just like CSSC is to our own volunteers, then that’s a great place to start. There are loads of opportunities on the national website where you can search your skills and interests and find the perfect role for you.

Here at CSSC, our volunteers are members with a huge range of skills and enthusiasm, and a willingness to share with others. We try to have a really varied choice of roles for our members to get involved in, from area or regional committee roles, board members, events or sports organisers, social media, finance, administration, anything which supports our members to get a great offer in their local area. CSSC Volunteers don’t necessarily need to have qualifications or experience to get involved but they do need to agree to our values and code of conduct. This is echoed in most organisations who engage with volunteers. You don’t need to be an expert, you just need to be there for the right reasons.

All of my volunteering is outside of work but I have been really pleased to be able to use one of my allotted Volunteer Days to wear my reflective jacket and welcome people for their vaccines.

You really do not need to have much spare time to volunteer, a little goes a long way and can make a massive difference to another person’s life.

Well, I just cannot express how good it feels to know that what you are doing is helping others, seriously, it’s wonderful. For me, my mental wellbeing is 100% why I’m there, I just love it. But that isn’t all. Volunteering is a great way to take part in something that you enjoy but may not be part of your life, just like our volunteers who organise sports or theatre events/trips. It’s also a way to gain skills, support people, make friends, learn and for personal growth.

It’s definitely the relationships you form, the things you learn, and the joy it brings to you and others.

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