Yvonne Atkins | 06.08.2020 | Who Cares? Scotland
As a Volunteer Coordinator, being able to come together, face to face with volunteers, to get to know them, plan their journeys, hear about their volunteer experience and listen to their new, creative ideas is a massive part of the love of the job. This year, where everything changed so quickly and the coronavirus pandemic impacted on every aspect of our lives, in a way that none of us had ever experienced, I am more thankful than ever for our volunteers, their fantastic contributions and the speed at which they adapted to their role at Who Cares? Scotland.
Reflecting with volunteers on the way that they have responded to the current situation has enabled us to truly acknowledge all of their contributions but also for us to look to the future of volunteering at Who Cares? Scotland.
In the last financial year, 48 volunteers supported our work at Who Cares? Scotland and contributed 2200 hours of love, passion, enthusiasm and determination. This phenomenal contribution allowed us to directly support and work alongside Care Experienced members across Scotland, delivering creative and exciting opportunities to create new experiences and memories, reduce isolation and increase belonging. Our volunteers supported a number of fundraising opportunities and National Events, delivered training to raise awareness and knowledge of Care Experience, invited new members to join Who Cares? Scotland, and helped bring our values of equality and respect into school settings.
In March we entered a difficult and unknown time where we had to sadly communicate with our volunteer team that their roles as they knew them and the impactful ideas and plans they had for 2020 would need to be put on hold for the foreseeable future. This decision was tough on everyone involved. However, the volunteer team being as dedicated, committed and resilient as they are were not ready to let this challenging time stop them from supporting the young people they had built such strong relationships with, or let the hard work they had already put into our vision of Equality, Respect and Love be halted. The volunteers came together to meet a new and emerging need and to ensure that our members were not left behind.
Despite so many of the volunteers facing their own personal challenges during this difficult time, we were very clear from the start that there was no expectation on any volunteer and that we understood some would need to take a break at this time. However, they teamed together and completely re-imagined what being a volunteer at Who Cares? Scotland looked like in times like these but also showed a high level of support to each other as a team. Volunteers were committed to ensuring that none of our members were left isolated, relationships were not lost, and that connection was upheld as a priority through digital means.
The pandemic has transformed the way our team are volunteering but as always, the volunteers excelled any expectations and were pro-active with staff and developed their response to this pandemic. Participation became less organisation-led and more people-led, with volunteers organising themselves locally to provide online platforms for engagement for our members. This ranged from arts and crafts, pet parties, exercise classes, quizzes, bingo, games and fun activities, to homework groups. Volunteers also recorded audiobooks for members to listen to when an escape was needed, delivered workshops in our first Digital Festival, provided offers to deliver food, led support sessions on dealing with these challenging times and offered individualised support to members. In cases where members were struggling during lockdown and were uncomfortable engaging with online activities, the volunteers continued to show their commitment through regular communication and reaching out, providing alternative methods of engagement to ensure those members knew we were still there for them.
At Who Cares? Scotland, this shift in how we operate and volunteer roles has had its challenges, but it has absolutely shown positives on so many levels, and reflects our strategic priority to build on our volunteer programme and see volunteers lead on activity. Through this volunteer-led participation, meaningful and essential activities and the relationships built and developed, volunteers are even keen to see a change in their roles in the future and continue to provide these alternative opportunities going forward.
Who Cares? Scotland will always need the support of volunteers on a regular basis to support our work and campaigns. Volunteering has changed, but this has shown that we are well-placed to adapt to new circumstances and this could not have been done without the support and dedication of the volunteers. For this, we cannot thank them enough. Now we are in a new phase, we may still be figuring out what the ‘new normal’ looks like, but the safety of our volunteers is of utmost importance and we are clear that volunteers will continue to play a key role at Who Cares? Scotland now and in the future #NEVERMORENEEDED.