Thank you, thank you, thank you…
This week reminds us to give our heartfelt thanks to the thousands of volunteers giving their time in Sandwell to really make a difference to local people and communities.
Volunteers’ Week (June 1-7) is a long-standing event in the voluntary sector, established in 1984. If it was ‘business as usual’ we would be celebrating, along with hundreds of other organisations, and getting together to hail our champions at events across the borough.
This year, of course, things are slightly different; so we’re going to bring you a few stories over the week that demonstrate the wide range of ways in which people are giving their time to make a difference. (Check back each day to read the next story).
In the last few weeks we have enlisted a small army of local people who have come forward to support their community, many for the first time.
We have facilitated hundreds of them to ‘do their bit’, from shopping and collecting prescriptions for isolating residents to supporting existing voluntary organisations to change their way of working to cope with the crisis.
But of course there are always people in Sandwell giving their time freely – having fun, building their own confidence, making new friends, boosting their CV and learning new skills alongside making a massive difference to local communities.
To all of you, whether you’ve been helping out for years, or you’ve just joined the party, we thank you most sincerely.
And if you’re still waiting for your invitation then please get in touch and find out more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Helping out can be a joy for life, not just for crisis.
Some of the stories we’ve gathered from our recent work…
Friday (2 stories today) – ‘Bryan at Brushstrokes’ and ‘Gurdeep gives her time’.
A Letter to SCVO from Tipton volunteer Bryan, helping out at Brushstrokes
Just want to say thanks for the kinds words. It was so nice too to receive those pictures and letters from the children of the families I’ve been delivering to.
Thought I’d share with you a couple of little things from myself. Firstly, there’s a family that speak limited English, and the man’s name is Roberto. From the very first week we instantly clicked, not sure how or why (maybe the way they all come to the door with a smile). Every time I go there I instantly shout Roberto at the top of my voice and they all respond – quite funny with my thick Black Country accent! As I leave they all shout ‘ciao’, to me. From about my 3rd delivery up till present I give them a little present from myself, usually sweets, yesterday was a large bag of jelly beans (did want them myself be honest!).
Over the past few weeks any donations I’ve been given from friends and family I try to share out equally but I seem to find myself putting the odd tin of something extra in theirs. I scour the internet for free nappies which I collect if they are local to me, also as of yesterday my local shopkeeper Suky (known him for years), is topping up the parcel. He told me to pop in on a Thursday and just ask for a donation to take with me.
Anyway there you go – who knows how long my furlough from work will be or if I ever return but at the moment my volunteering will carry on in some form with Brushstrokes and with Sandwell Litter Watch and team. I enjoy both volunteer roles and either would be an area I could see myself in.
Bryan’s ‘Thank You’ picture.
(you can click the picture to see a larger version)
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Gurdeep gives her time
The voluntary sector looms large in Gurdeep’s life, as under normal circumstances she has a rewarding career with a charitable organisation.
When the Covid crisis hit, however, she found herself furloughed from work and realised she could put some of her experience to good use as a volunteer.
“I have a background in safeguarding and signposting and have always considered myself a good listener, so I signed up to SCVO’s volunteer data base and was steered towards the Sandwell Together befriending service.
“Within about a month I had seven people to chat with on a regular basis and they have all turned out to be so lovely.
“Most of them really need someone to just listen, not to talk back at them too much. They have so much to share and it’s a privilege to hear their stories without judgment, and without any obligation to do anything more than listen.
“Of course there are occasions when it’s useful to be able to signpost people to other services that could help them, and Helen from Sandwell Advocacy is great at that kind of training and support for volunteers. But in the main, the people I’m befriending don’t need any specialist intervention. They need little more than to open up to a listening, impartial ear.
“Some of them have absolutely no one else to talk to, and personally I don’t think that’s just because of the current virus situation. I believe there is a need for a service like this all year round.”
If you would like to know more about giving a little time to really help a lot then please email email@example.com
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Thursday – Phil’s Story
Skip hire manager Phil, from Great Barr, never imagined volunteering before the current crisis.
In recovery himself from cancer, when lockdown loomed he decided he needed to step up and ‘do his bit’ for the Sandwell community.
“I was furloughed from work and my partner was working full time from home, so apart from household chores I felt a bit useless,” he said.
“I sent in my expression of interest to SCVO but was a bit hesitant about what I could do because of the cancer recovery.
“Remarkably, they set me up to be a telephone befriender, which was absolutely perfect. I was used to talking to people on the phone, and I had some training from Sandwell Advocacy to deal with stuff I might encounter, which was great.
“That first time I rang someone who needed befriending was very daunting. I was nervous to say the least, even though I talk all day at work. But I soon got into it and it’s been amazing – there’s a different world out there I never knew of before and I’m privileged to be able to make it a bit better place.
“My family and friends are quite surprised I’m doing this but I enjoy it and have no plans to stop volunteering in some way or other even when this is all over.”
Phil is a volunteer for Sandwell Together, created during the pandemic by Sandwell Advocacy and SCVO as a befriending service for isolated residents.
Dave Bradshaw, project co-ordinator at Sandwell Advocacy, said: “The Covid-19 crisis has seen our community pull together in ways never seen before. People have come forward in their hundreds to step up to the challenge and volunteer to do something positive in a time of adversity. From supporting the work of health and social care services, to providing practical support to people unable to do their shopping or collect medication, through to those providing emotional support and social contact via telephone befriending the response has been overwhelming. At a time when the work of volunteers is especially recognised during Volunteers’ Week this army of volunteers has demonstrated what a huge difference volunteering can make”.
SCVO set up the Sandwell ‘crisis’ volunteer response service and currently has close to 400 volunteers out and about supporting residents – shopping, collecting prescriptions and even walking dogs!
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Wednesday – Lisa designs new ways to work
Jigsaw is a local charity working with adults with learning disabilities and due to the pandemic had to stop all social activities for members – no craft group, no bingo, no trips 🙁
For most members, Jigsaw activities were the only things they did outside of their home; where they met friends, had fun and enjoyed shared, new experiences, so naturally they were devastated.
Jigsaw staff and volunteers quickly developed an action plan to keep their members happy, including phoning members every week to check in on them, and setting up two WhatsApp groups where members, volunteers and workers could chat and have online fun. Even bingo was re-imagined via WhatsApp!
The skill set they were missing was graphic design, making activities visually appealing to their client group, and that’s where volunteer Lisa Barrett stepped in.
Lisa, a freelance graphic designer from Bearwood, had signed up to the SCVO ‘crisis’ database, expecting to be called for something like shopping or prescription-collection. But she had mentioned design in her volunteer application, which a quick search identified.
With Lisa’s help, Jigsaw has been able to produce a weekly pack of fun activities for members and a growing number of other people with a learning disability in Sandwell. They make the activities available to other people with a learning disability via free downloads on their website homepage. The activities include colouring for adults, dot-to-dot, spot the difference, a range of quizzes and other puzzles, and word searches.
Lisa said: “I registered my availability to volunteer locally via SVCO’s website back in March after seeing a call for volunteers on Twitter. Most of my work had been put on hold due to the pandemic, and I was keen to help people with my new-found time. It was fantastic to receive the introduction to Liz at Jigsaw, and I’m really enjoying being able to help in a small way as they keep their fantastic work going through this time.
Although I’ve worked with many charities in the past, I’ve not worked with adults with learning disabilities, and it’s been so rewarding learning about how Jigsaw truly helps its community of members, and is helping bring enjoyment and connection at this difficult time.
I hope to continue to help Jigsaw going forward through Coronavirus and beyond, and look forward to the day when I can meet some of the members in person, and join them for tea and cake at our beautiful Lightwoods House.”
Liz from Jigsaw said: “Our members love their weekly packs and Lisa’s contribution has enabled us to present activities in an accessible and engaging way. She has designed a number of resources including a healthy food quiz, which in addition to being fun also helps our members to eat healthy under the lockdown. We are really grateful to have a volunteer with Lisa’s skills working with us at this time.”
Find out more about Jigsaw: https://www.jigsawevents.org
Find out more about Lisa Barrett: http://www.lisa-barrett.com
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Tuesday – Doreen says “thank you” …
Hundreds of people signed up during the pandemic to support people in need in their local community. One of them was Andy (pictured right) …
“Sending volunteer Andy to us has been like some kind of miracle. My husband and I have no family close at hand, and all of our friends are in the same boat, stuck inside unable to go shopping. Andy calls us to see what we need and he’s so warm and friendly. When he turns up with fresh veg and fruit it feels like your birthday and we’re so glad to see him, even if it has to be from a distance.
Last week when he dropped off the shopping I wasn’t feeling very well and even from the end of the path he noticed. He asked me what was the matter and insisted on going back to the shops to get me Paracetamol in case I had a fever. He made sure I had numbers to call and knew what to do if I got any worse, which thankfully I didn’t, and then he rang every day to see how I was.
I can’t thank Andy enough, and SCVO too for organising such a fantastic service.”