Reflecting on Volunteering During 2020

Yvonne Atkins | 24.03.2021 | Who Cares? Scotland

 

As March 23rd marked one year since the Covid-19 pandemic brought lockdown restrictions and a brand-new sense of unknown, we felt it was important to acknowledge and reflect upon the crucial work of our volunteers. In March 2020 we entered a difficult and unknown time, however, throughout 2020, our volunteers have done an incredible job, repurposing, and redesigning their roles. The resilience and dedication of the volunteers at this time shone through as they came together to meet a new and emerging need and to ensure that our members were not left behind.

The last twelve months have been incredibly difficult for all our volunteer team on so many different, personal levels. Despite these continued challenges, volunteers have shown a true determination for supporting Who Cares? Scotland members. Therefore, to mark a year of remote, and often limited, volunteering we want to take the time to reflect on what volunteers have achieved.

In a year where everything changed so quickly and the pandemic impacted on every aspect of our lives, volunteers adapted their roles at Who Cares? Scotland with just as much speed. From March 2020 to March 2021, 67 volunteers contributed a massive 1687 hours of love, passion, enthusiasm, and determination despite activity being limited in so many areas. This phenomenal contribution allowed us to continue to directly support and work alongside Care Experienced members across Scotland and, most importantly, ensured that members knew Who Cares was still there for them and that they still had those important relationships they had developed with their volunteers.

In a year of constant challenges and unknowns, what volunteers have achieved has been outstanding. Volunteers continued to support existing groups which moved online very quickly and helped to manage the challenges members faced through this. Volunteers’ dedication to adapting to online group work so quickly was hugely impactful for enabling members to continue to have a positive routine and focus. Volunteers were also crucial in delivering creative and exciting new opportunities to ensure Who Cares? Scotland members continued to feel connected and supported during this tough time. Volunteers led and supported numerous online groups and essential activities including craft groups, exercise, quizzes, bingo, help with homework, recorded audiobooks, and drop-in chats. Volunteers also delivered food, provided vouchers, and offered individual support. These activities were crucial offers to try and help manage isolation and maintain belonging. In the toughest of years, volunteers went above and beyond to record activity videos for those struggling to engage in group online activities, they sent out messages and activity packs to let members know they were continuing to think of them, and they sent videos of hope to try and stay connected with members.

Despite many of the volunteers facing their own personal challenges during this difficult time, they showed an incredible amount of enthusiasm when guidelines changed, allowing us to re-start outdoor face to face work. Due to continued safety concerns, we were very clear on emphasizing that there was no expectation on any volunteer. However, we were inundated with outdoor activity ideas and volunteers wanting to get back to seeing the young people. This was a mix of positives where relationships could be re-established and brought so much joy for volunteers. However, it also brought its own challenges, where some members were not ready to engage in face-to-face work. However, as always, the volunteer team showed such resilience and commitment, staying connected to Who Cares and the members in any way they could, and ensuring they knew they would still be there when young people felt ready to return. We have constantly reflected on how difficult the constant change and unknown has been, and this year most of all we have reflected upon how lucky we are to have a team of such dedicated people who remained patient and always had the members best interests at heart.

The pandemic resulted in many difficult decisions being made and brought many additional challenges for members. The volunteer team transformed the way they worked and excelled any expectations in their response to these. With our annual summer camp and Time to Shine Festival having to be cancelled, volunteers took a pro-active response which resulted in many leading and supporting digital events to replace these events. Christmas was another extremely challenging time with difficult decisions. Again, volunteers went above and beyond and spent the month of December writing 2500 Christmas cards and making packs to be sent out to members, as well as supporting online activities throughout the Christmas period.

The pandemic raised challenges for members including being digitally disconnected. This had a damaging impact on members being able to complete schoolwork at home, engage with online groups and events, or simply be able to connect with others during a time of lockdown. Several volunteers were passionate about changing this situation for young people and families and so supported a life-changing project of delivering IT devices and access to WIFI. Through this work, and everything volunteers have achieved in such a challenging year, they have continued to make an incredible difference to Care Experienced people.

Volunteers have been outstanding during this difficult year and reflecting with them on the way that they have responded to the situation has enabled us to truly acknowledge all their contributions but also for us to look to the future of volunteering at Who Cares? Scotland.

At Who Cares? Scotland, this shift in volunteer roles, and for some a pause in volunteering has had its challenges, but it has absolutely shown positives on so many levels, reflecting our strategic priority to build on our volunteer programme and see volunteers lead on activity. 2020 was a difficult year in many respects, but the activities reported above illustrate the distinctive role that volunteering has played within Who Cares? Scotland.

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. A year on, we may still be figuring out what the ‘new normal’ looks like, but the safety of our volunteers is of the utmost importance and we are clear that volunteers will continue to play a key role at Who Cares? Scotland now and in the future. To all of our Who Cares? Scotland volunteers – Thank you!!

With thanks to Scottish Local Authorities, funding partners and donors who make our work possible.