Volunteers’ Week: A special shout out to our incredible volunteers
Catherine Semmence – OSJCT Head of Volunteering
Today is the start of Volunteers’ Week, an annual event where the whole country comes together to celebrate the fantastic contribution volunteers make to our communities. It’s especially poignant after a year when volunteers have played a key role in the UK’s pandemic response and continue to do so. Many of you reading this will have had one or both COVID-19 vaccines at a site supported by volunteer stewards. The vaccine rollout would not have happened as swiftly without the time and commitment of thousands of community volunteers.
This time last year, restrictions from the first lockdown were beginning to ease slightly, no face-to-face celebrations would be possible with our OSJCT volunteers, but we were hopeful for the following year. Fast forward 12 months and it was with a heavy heart that we realised that our Volunteers’ Week events would again need to be virtual.
But we won’t let this stop us. Because there has never been a more important time to thank and celebrate our volunteers than 15 months into a pandemic! Our volunteers have stuck with us throughout, many still able to visit our residents and support them to do the things they enjoy whilst others have learnt new skills to engage with them online. Our homes have needed to adapt activities to consider the PPE & social distancing protocols and so have our volunteers. There is no doubt that the time volunteers have spent with our residents has kept their spirits up and helped them to stay as active as possible.
What has really struck me in the last year, is not just the impact volunteers have at OSJCT, but also what volunteering offers to the lives of our volunteers. I have always known that good volunteering is a partnership, and this year has really demonstrated this. Research has often found a positive link between wellbeing and volunteering; a relationship not newly founded, but recently explored in the Time Well Spent study by NCVO. They found that 77% of volunteers agreed that their volunteering experience improved their wellbeing in some way. Whilst that is a staggering statistic, there is something very powerful when you hear it first-hand from a volunteer.
At a virtual coffee morning recently, one of our returning Volunteer Music Assistants told us that a recent event brought tears to their eyes. They said: “What will stay with me is how quickly everyone was either singing along or mouthing the words.”
Another volunteer told us: “Thank God for the residents and staff for keeping me sane throughout the last year. I feel so blessed that I have been able to continue to volunteer”.
It’s not just the loyalty and dedication of our longer-standing volunteers that has made all the difference. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve welcomed over 330 new volunteers to our home teams. One of our volunteers that joined us at the beginning of the pandemic, with his wife, said:
“It seemed a good opportunity to give something back. I’m not a ‘regular’ volunteer (not the volunteering type), I rarely do anything for nothing, but I can honestly say that my experience gives me a great feeling of wellbeing. We have forged some real friendships with both the residents and staff.”
During the week, everyone working across OSJCT will be saying an extra special thank you to all our brilliant volunteers; current, past, and new. If you’ve not yet been able to return to your volunteering yet, thank you for sticking with us, we can’t wait to welcome you back.
Volunteer for OSJCT
If you’re reading this and thinking of volunteering for us – do it.
You’ll be joining an incredible network of people who volunteer for many different reasons but have the same vision – to ensure that our residents remain connected to their communities and continue to enjoy things that are important to them.