Korina Tsioni gives a quick review of 2020 from the Investing in Volunteers team and shares the story of student Ben’s volunteering journey.
2020 will undoubtedly be a year we will never forget. An intense year, we were asked to stay in, and stay static. When the right thing to do for most of us was to do nothing, at the same time we wanted to contribute, to do as much as possible to help others.
During this crisis, thousands of people responded to their communities’ ask for help. Only in the month of March, 10,358 new volunteers registered on Volunteering Wales website to volunteer locally: drivers, prescription takers, care workers, shopping doers, phone consultation befrienders, all local heroes who helped the neighbour and the most vulnerable during these difficult times.
I feel the need to express how thankful the WCVA Volunteering team is for everything volunteers have done, and still are doing for our communities. I’d also like to highlight the invaluable support from colleagues in local authorities and County Voluntary Councils in Wales. Thank you to all colleagues who work so hard and do such a great job, I learn so much from you and it is a pleasure working with you.
Working on Investing in Volunteers standard this year, I did not only have the opportunity to work closer with the County Voluntary Councils in Wales but also with many voluntary organisations in Wales who have achieved the standard.
If you are a voluntary organisation in the UK, Investing in Volunteers standard provides the ideal framework for you to assess the quality of your volunteer management and involvement, prove and improve the effectiveness of your work with volunteers, and enhance your organisation’s reputation. Achieving the standard shows your volunteers – and potential volunteers – how much they are valued and gives them confidence in your ability to provide an outstanding volunteer experience.
One of these organisations is Discovery. Based in Swansea, this is a volunteer led organisation, aiming to enrich people’s lives through volunteering! Here is Ben’s story, a volunteer with Discovery, as they have shared it with us earlier in the year before the pandemic.
BEN’S VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY
Ben returned to Swansea University in the autumn term to find himself alone in his shared house. He had two weeks until his fellow students returned – two weeks without plans, structure, classes, or any contact with other human beings.
For some, this might sound like heaven! But for Ben it was less than ideal. He has a range of complex health conditions, as well as autism. These have precluded him from joining societies and making friends, and his contact with his family is also limited due to safeguarding concerns. His sense of isolation is, therefore, already very extreme.
In these circumstances, it would have been easy for him to run away / drop out, but instead Ben contacted the university’s Wellbeing department and was put in touch with Discovery.
Discovery is a student-led charity working to enrich the lives of disadvantaged people, challenge discrimination, and support disabled people. They have over 600 volunteers working across more than 30 projects, around Swansea and in Zambia.
They took Ben in a regular, short-term volunteer, giving him induction training and enrolling him on a safeguarding course. A range of data processing tasks were assigned to him, and daily hours were agreed.
This volunteering role gave Ben some much-needed structure and a social life at this important time. Project workers aware of Ben’s complex needs knew that, had he remained isolated for this entire period, it would have significantly impacted on his mental health and ability to begin the new autumn term.
As it was, volunteering with Discovery increased Ben’s confidence significantly. He is a volunteer with the ‘Community Meal’ project, and with ‘Buddied Reading’, supporting children to read in a local primary school. He supports other members of the community to socialise, including disabled adults.
And all of this can be traced back to the receipt of a Volunteering Wales Grant on the part of Discovery, who used the funding to hire a volunteer recruitment worker. Without this worker, the consistent support needed to recruit volunteers would just not be there.
Now, Ben has some great work and projects on his CV, and he’s still at university, too! He credits Discovery for keeping him enrolled on his course, and Discovery credits the Volunteering Wales Grant with helping them to help volunteers. It is the opposite of a vicious circle! It’s a circle of support, social cohesion, community, and discovery.
ADAPTING TO A NEW REALITY
During 2020 the Investing in Volunteers teams worked with external on updating and refreshing the standard. The new fully refreshed standard will be launched in 2021.
Currently, you can find this new free tool online: Investing in Volunteers essentials online It can give you a taste of the standard, it can be used as a discussion starter in your organisation and be the first step working towards achieving your accreditation.
Completing all steps and achieving the standard comes with a fee, as you will be working with a highly experienced and trained Assessor during your Investing in Volunteers journey. Currently there are 26 voluntary organisations in Wales who hold the Investing in Volunteers standard and 12 are during the process of achieving it for the first time or renewing it.
The Investing in Volunteers teams are continuing to deliver services to existing and new customers, during COVID-19. Delivery has been adapted to carry out remote workshops and assessments. This has enabled full quality standard journeys to be delivered and completed online.
We have also been delivering Investing in Volunteers free events and workshops online, reaching out to the sector, promoting the standard, and connecting people who are interested in volunteer’s management. Our last event was in November 2020, as a part of the #QualityAssuranceTuesday events.
On the day, we had Investing in Volunteers assessors and achievers discussing the importance of quality assurance before, during and after the crisis. Colleagues from County Voluntary Councils, assessors and achievers have shared their experiences with the standard, and explained the benefits of the process, highlighting the strengths they gained during the process which put them in a stronger position to face the crisis.
There will be more events and workshops starting early next year – please make sure you subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates on upcoming events.
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