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It is the mark of a truly intelligent person to be moved by statistics (George Bernard Shaw)

Over the years, we have been gathering information on volunteering trends which is re-produced in our annual report. This information covers what type of interests and activities a potential volunteer would like to do and what our current opportunities offer. The categories in the top five have always changed from year to year with some new additions and some ‘old favourites’ popping up…….. until this year when the top five remained the same, just juggling positions slightly. This caused us to have a further think about these figures and what they might mean….

Firstly, if we go back a couple of years, new categories were added to the national database ‘Do-It’ which is where we get our statistics from. When this happened, a new category ‘men’ popped up which seemed to be a popular choice to tick for both volunteers and opportunities; this intrigued us! Why do people tick that box? Do they want to volunteer with men? Is it a role more suitable for men? Perhaps you could enlighten us? It’s strange as ‘men’ is a regular feature in the top five whereas ‘women’ is not???

Anyway enough of all that, the purpose of this blog is to make you think……

Are you, as a volunteer, willing to accept a challenge and consider opportunities that you may not have thought of before?

Fundraising, for example, is high on the list for opportunities but does not feature highly as something that volunteers want to do. BUT have you thought about supporting a fantastic cause that could flounder without your efforts? As part of a fundraising group you could take part in all sorts of activities to raise money and find a wonderful new set of friends into the bargain.

Are you as an organisation offering the type of opportunity that interests people? If not, how can you make it more interesting or even change trends and get your categories in the top five?

Environment and outdoor opportunities are high on volunteers lists. Have you, as an organisation, thought of volunteers keeping your office garden/flower beds up to scratch and beautiful? (As I write this, I’m thinking our office could do with a volunteer for that!)

 

So get your thinking caps on, break out of the mould and we’ll see what next year’s figures bring…… 😊

Back again!

Well here I am again, back at work after my three month leave due to my hip operation. I am pleased to say that the operation was a success and I am now able to walk unaided for the first time in about five years. My first week back a colleague and I had a race round the building and I won! I suspect that she let me win but nevertheless it was a joy to be able to compete! My muscles still need to strengthen and the challenge with returning to work is that I sit at a desk all day. I am disciplining myself to walk around the office building mid morning and afternoon with a short walk up the road in my lunchtime. Perhaps all of us would benefit from fresh air and exercise albeit in small doses. I have come to the conclusion that rather than exercise being a chore to be completed it needs to be a way of life that fits in with your own lifestyle. This need not be onerous but can easily done in small doses as in my own case.

I am pleased to say that my colleagues covered my work magnificently in my absence and that has made my return so much easier, many thanks to all concerned. I returned to a large welcome back note on my desk which was lovely and even my glass and cup had been put out ready for me to use 😊 My conclusion is that Volunteer Cornwall is a very pleasant place to work and I am very fortunate to have such great colleagues. I close with a quote from the Lego movie! Everything is awesome when you are part of a team!

Au Revoir

I thought I would try and write a blog since I am about to go on leave for about 2-3 months, not the sort of leave you necessarily look forward to though, as I am about to have a hip operation. A necessary evil you might say! I am looking forward to the end result though which will hopefully mean I can walk again without an aid.


For the last few weeks I have been trying to update all of the opportunities we manage on the do-it website so they will not go out of date whilst I am off. No mean task I might add as we currently have in excess of a thousand opportunities. I have also been trying to write some instructions for those colleagues who will cover my job in my absence. It wasn’t until I started to write down exactly what I do that I realised how complicated it is to instruct others. I have been in my job for 10 years now and have absorbed many changes to the job role along the way. There have been updates and changes to websites and databases that have been learnt along the way but more importantly the little tweaks enabling tasks to be done more efficiently (hopefully!) or ways round things when the websites/databases do not behave in the way they should do! All this is not onerous to me as they are things that I do on a regular basis, usually daily, but when I came to have to put it all down on paper (well actually an electronic Word document) it was not so easy. So, mission largely accomplished, it is now about to be tested by an extremely competent colleague of mine, so he can find any glitches in my instructions before I disappear!
This week is my last full week at work, as I have some leave for my daughter’s wedding before the operation, and it has a very strange feeling to it. A number of colleagues are going on annual leave from mid week so are saying ‘goodbye’ with quantities of cake I am told! (Our office does like cake and we use any excuse to indulge. Don’t tell the surgeon!) I have a mixture of emotions from being excited about the wedding to having that horrid anxious feeling in the stomach about the operation! In the way of things, both events will be over in no time and I shall hopefully have some very happy memories of the former to dwell on in my recovery period from the latter.
Depending on how I quickly I recover my next words to many of you may well be seasonal greetings, so in closing I will say ‘Have a Happy Christmas and New year!!’

Prickles and Paws

I first met Katy from Prickles and Paws when I visited her to chat about the Living Well to Work programme, Prickles and Paws is a “hogspital” just outside Newquay that takes in hedgehogs in need of treatment and rehabilitation. They are supported by a team of passionate volunteers and are themselves supportive of their volunteers.

For the Living Well to work participants it seemed an ideal opportunity for those wishing to volunteer in a quiet location and help animals, helping animals can often make volunteers feel good about what they are doing , doing good makes you feel good. Volunteering with and helping animals is also exceptionally good for people who have struggled with their mental health or struggle to engage with society.  Animals don’t judge you, they don’t shout, they just need help, if you struggle with lots of people and have become more and more isolated from society then volunteering at places like Prickles and Paws can be a gentle route back to re-engaging with society.

 

When I visited I donned a pair of gloves, read the health and safety guidelines and nervously began to help. I was terrified of dropping a hedgehog initially or inadvertently hurting them but soon overcame this as we had to get cracking.  Katy explained about the medications and how all hedgehogs needed weighing to track their health, not all hedgehogs agreed with the fact they had to be weighed and seemed to take great delight in showing me how capable they were of a quick dash.

The team work very hard and all incredibly passionate about their prickly patients who all had individual personalities. It was a huge pleasure to help them for the morning and find out more about them.  Excitingly at this stage Prickles and Paws were about to send in their paperwork for registered charity status.  I came away feeling really positive and inspired and got far more out of helping than I gave.

Moving forward a few weeks and at my next visit I was delighted to be able to congratulate Katy and Diane on gaining their charity registration status.  I was also introduced to a delicious set of prickly triplets who at approximately 2 weeks old have not even opened their eyes and as all babies do, require a lot of care.

It is so exciting to witness a stage of a journey where things are going to change massively for a small organisation, with the drive and passion that team Prickles and Paws have I truly believe that they will reach their goal to become a wildlife hospital for Cornwall. Here at Volunteer Cornwall we look forward to supporting them via our Academy and back to work programmes  to reach their goals. 

You can find out more about Prickles and Paws by clicking here.

If you are keen to volunteer and would like more information about opportunities in your area please do take a look at the Do-it website.

Social Isolation - Finding your Way back to Work

Social isolation is a state of complete or near-complete lack of contact between an individual and society. It differs from loneliness, which reflects a temporary lack of contact with other humans. Social isolation can be an issue for individuals of any age, though symptoms may differ by age group.

It takes a lot of courage and a real wish to break free from chains of social isolation.  It may be a single realisation, a life event, a moment that flicks a switch and starts this journey back for the individual.  It is a true journey of courage and rediscovery and laughter, it is not without its  wobbles, hurdles, pitfalls and barriers.  However with the right support these first faltering steps can be the beginning of a richer, happier life.

For me it has been a huge privilege to be at the start of this journey for some of the participants on the Living Well to Work project, some of whom have been socially isolated for many years.  To be a part of the road that can shape the rest of their lives, like watching a chick first hatch from the confines of its egg, wobbly and vulnerable at first.  But slowly their feathers begin to fluff and prepare them for the road ahead.

The journey is equally fabulous and frustrating as you watch new friendships emerge and confidence grow, you also find your first pitfall; references, some jobs require up to 3 referees which may need to have known you for between two and five years.

Volunteering opportunities can provide a degree of flexibility with reference requests.  You don’t necessarily have to volunteer at just one opportunity provider either.  All the while you are volunteering you are building up new references; you are trying and learning new things, meeting new people and building your confidence and skills.  You may be volunteering somewhere that can provide you with training and qualifications, either in house or with providers such as our Academy.

Regular volunteering will also show potential employers that you are committed to returning to work, that you are reliable, that you are kind, that you have skills.  Regular volunteering will also remind yourself that you have all these skills and that you can learn more.  Doing good makes you feel good, as your mental health improves your physical health may well soon follow.

Volunteering is a softer journey back to work, more supportive and you have the potential to gain far more than you give; friends, fun, qualifications, positive memories, skills and experience.

Many people once in work continue to volunteer and believe that it has opened up more career routes for them, enhancing their employment journey.

"I’m never short of things to talk about at interview thanks to the various things I’ve done and challenges I’ve overcome through volunteering," Naomi, a 22-year-old Peer Support Worker told us. "It’s also given me a whole network of people all over the UK who are doing lots of interesting things, which has helped me to find jobs in the first place."

Being a part of the participants’ journey on Living Well to Work makes me proud, proud of people who have a huge amount of courage to take their first steps back to Living Well.  I get to work with people who inspire me every day with their courage in the face of their own fears, people who are having to climb mountains in their hearts and minds, I am lucky that they put their trust in me if only for a short while on their new journey back to Living Well.