This Volunteers’ Week we turn our attention to the volunteers that have shown the most amazing expressions of support at times of crisis, as individuals put their time and energy into meeting local needs in practical ways.
We saw it with the recent floods. We see it again as people are responding to coronavirus and the efforts of volunteers that continue during lockdown.
One of the worst affected areas by Storm Dennis was Pontypridd, with over 680 families affected. Trallwn Community Centre, which is run by a voluntary management committee, became a focal point for local residents. A Facebook page was established, offers of volunteering received and requests logged. Tradespeople offered skills, supermarkets donated food and cleaning products; Rhondda Cynon Taf Council housing officers provided support and free legal advice was available. It was volunteers, however, who provided residents with a friendly chat, a warm meal, and the comfort of knowing they were not alone.
Amongst the volunteers on the scene in Pontypridd were young people from America, the Philippines and New Zealand, in the UK on missionary work.
Then just as the worst of Storm Dennis abated, there followed the coronavirus pandemic.
Informal support groups
In local communities, informal support groups have developed rapidly led by volunteers. They have enabled local community response including providing information, running errands, and providing emotional support for those who are self-isolating and vulnerable.
Tom Bowring, Head of Policy and Business Transformation Vale of Glamorgan Council said ‘The brilliance of these groups is their responsiveness at the most local level, which allow other established organisations like Glamorgan Voluntary Services, Age Connects and the Food Bank to work on other areas of demand and specialism. With all tiers working together, it allows us as a local authority to concentrate on the most vulnerable people. It’s been a terrific example of real community work in action.’
Thank you. The contributions made by informal groups from near and far make a huge difference to the lives of the people in communities that face the devastation and uncertainty at times of crisis. Thank you.
The individuals that stepped up
Amongst the widespread community response, there are hundreds of individuals that found a way to contribute, using their own unique skills and experiences. One example is Jemma.
Jemma and her friends, for example, have found ways to play their part. Furloughed by her employer in March, Jemma was inspired to make adapters for PPE face masks for NHS workers. Adaptors hold the elastics of a mask so that they fit securely and are soft and comfortable. ‘I saw pictures of frontline staff with their faces and ears red and sore from wearing masks and PPE for long hours’ she said. ‘I have many good friends who are nurses, paramedics, radiographers, pharmacists, midwives and care home workers and I hated to think of them suffering.’ Jemma and friends have also been making masks, scrub bags, scrub hats and prem baby hats.
Thousands of items have been sent to hospitals in Cwmbran, Newport, Cardiff, Abergavenny and to hospitals in England, connecting up with those who need them through Helpforce Assist .
Thank you to the individuals of all ages that directed their creativity and empathy to take action in support of others, in many cases for people not known the individual.
The volunteers that could not continue
For every individual that has stepped forward to volunteer, we know there is a volunteer that has stepped back. There are significant numbers of volunteers that have had to stop volunteering during the coronavirus pandemic. For some, changes in priorities, for others, the rules of lockdown, or the changing circumstances of the organisation for whom they volunteer means that it is no longer possible to be an active volunteer. Whatever the reason for the temporary or permeant pause in volunteering – we want to say THANK YOU. The time you gave before the crisis is valued, the difference you made to others is important. Thank you.
When volunteer involving organisations could not continue ‘When people do good things for others, it’s a feeling that’s very hard to shake – the people that have done this are going to want to continue, but it’s got to be flexible’ @OWilce #DifferentFuturesWales ‘When people do good things for others, it’s a feeling that’s very hard to shake – the people that have done this are going to want to continue, but it’s got to be flexible’ @OWilce #DifferentFuturesWales
Voluntary organisations that could not continue to engage their volunteers redeployed their volunteers and resources, to meet new and increased needs.
New volunteers stepped forward to make up the shortfall as well as to expand the capacity and reach of organisations’ vital services.
More than 17,000 individuals have signed up on the Volunteering Wales website wanting to help in the Covid 19 crisis, which included far more men are coming forward to volunteer than would normally be the case. Local County Voluntary Councils (CVCs) have been identifying the best way to involve volunteering locally and are matching individuals to where the needs lie.
Community volunteers who enable people to stay at home safely help to reduce the pressure on the NHS and social care.
Thank you to all the people that have never volunteered before, that saw that they were needed and put themselves forward to be community heroes.
NHS and social care providers
Health Boards reviewed and redeployed their existing ‘workforce’ of staff, students in training and volunteers and were overwhelmed by enquiries from new volunteers.
They have been busily recruiting and training volunteers so that they are ready to meet new demands that may arise – for example in the running of new field hospitals. The Deputy Minister, Jane Hutt, expressed her thanks is this article as 360 people came forward to help at the field hospitals in Carmarthenshire.
Thank you. The NHS and social care providers have and will continue to be grateful for the contribution’s volunteers make to how these services deliver patient and community care. Thank you
Support from the business community
With skilled staff being furloughed from their normal employment, these staff joined in the volunteering efforts to support those affected by the virus.
Volunteering Matters has linked with employers from Cadent, Calon Energy, National Grid and QBE to enable employees to make regular calls to vulnerable people at home in Newport. Many of these volunteers have been furloughed; others are volunteering within their Corporate Social Responsibility policy and with the full support of their employer. ‘This is a great partnership for Volunteering Matters and a positive support for the community’ said Valerie Brittin, Project Officer, Volunteering Matters.
Thank you to the business community for the energy and resources you have put into local neighbourhoods and in support of voluntary organisations. Your time and that of your staff and customers has made a huge difference.
Join us in saying thank you
Across our families, through our friends and colleagues, our neighbours and communities, it is anticipated that all of us have felt, seen or heard of the kindness of others. Whether this has helped in a small or a huge way, to make someone’s life a little brighter, or a little easier during a time of crisis, whether it’s the one we face today, or one we faced some time ago. As this week is national Volunteers’ Week, we are urging everyone that knows someone who has volunteered to say thank you and express a message of gratitude. The way you choose to say thank you is completely up to you. One of the ways we will be saying thank you as a nation is a #ClapforVolunteers on our doorsteps at 8pm on Thursday 4th June. We hope you join us.