Felicitie Walls, Volunteering Manager at WCVA, asks would-be volunteers who’ve signed up to help fight against coronavirus to be patient while the sector gets its bearings at this strange time.
Thousands of kind-hearted and compassionate people are stepping forward to help their loved ones, their neighbours, their communities and their local hospitals. In my fifteen years of engaging with people that want to volunteer, I have never seen so many people that actively want to make a difference.
It’s wonderful and reassuring to know that we live in a part of the world that has significant numbers of people that care, that are compassionate and that are enthusiastic to help. The reason I know this so well is because for the past few weeks I have been supporting a team that has received an unprecedented number of phone calls and emails from individuals that want to get involved.
Mixture of emotions
Alongside the passion and compassionate, I am also listening and hearing stories of frustration, anger and confusion. Frustration that offers of help are not being met by someone at the end of a phone or the end of an email. Anger that individuals are not able to start volunteering immediately and confusion over what volunteering is available for individuals, where to go to provide help, the types of things that need doing and questions over how volunteers can keep themselves safe.
Behind the scenes
I have written this blog to explain some of what happens ‘behind the scenes’ in the world of volunteering, in the hope of calming some of the frustration and anger and helping clear up some of the confusion felt by those that are keen to get out there and do their bit.
Firstly, individuals and communities across the UK do want your help. Not just now at this moment, but in the challenging weeks and months to come, and after this, in the recovery phase, and beyond this again, as projects and organisations continue to support communities and environments.
Be kind and patient
Right now, your time is of value, but the staff and volunteers that answer the phone calls and emails are busier than ever before. Working patterns, places where people work and the demand on people lives have been turned upside down (just like yours). Some of the volunteers and staff that would have answered such calls have been furloughed or are juggling many tasks to keep their projects and organisations going. These projects want your time, but first your kindness and patience. They will respond as soon as they can.
If you have already signed up to volunteer, but are waiting to enter the next stage, or just to get started, you may also have some waiting to do. Whilst the organisation or project knows that you are there, they now need to make sure they have the right opportunity ready for you. This could mean identifying where your help is best needed, getting the supplies you may need in place, working through any checks or references that need to be sort before you can start.
Again, please allow the organisation some time to work through this before they come back to you.
In the meantime, get yourself ready
Since becoming a volunteer may not happen straight away this can be a useful time to think about some of the key questions that people who want to volunteer should ask themselves. These questions are as follows.
- Why do you want to volunteer? Is it for a particular cause, such as responding to the impact of coronavirus, are you looking to build particular skills, are you looking to meet new people or gain a better understanding of how particular services work?
- What types of things would you be willing to do as a volunteer? Are you looking for something that involves interacting with other people, something online or would you prefer to be outdoors?
- Do you have any specific skills or experiences that you would like to use in your volunteering?
- Are you prepared to undergo any training that your volunteering opportunity may request?
- How much time can you spare? And at what times of the week or day?
With the answers to these questions in mind, you are a little more prepared regarding what you might want to get from the volunteering experience and what you might be prepared to do.
Other things you can do
I also recommend that you read the guidance WCVA have produced on how volunteers can keep themselves safe whilst volunteering.
In many types of volunteering, you will be asked to provide ID documents or provide references, you could make sure you have this information available to hand.
Another step you could take as you prepare to become a volunteer is to make sure that you are feeling well, ready to give the best of yourself to the cause you care about. Take some time to be kind to yourself, your loved ones, and neighbours.
Now, sit back, try to relax, and listen out for the call or email that says, we need you now.
Want to volunteer, but not sure where to start? Visit www.volunteering-wales.net – make sure you ‘APPLY’ to an opportunity so that the projects knows that you are interested.