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Volunteers Tell Their Stories Of What They Do And Why

Published on: 2 Jun, 2021
Updated on: 4 Jun, 2021

The commitment and dedication volunteers make are vital to our local communities, and Volunteers’ Week (June 1 to 7) is a chance to recognise their fantastic contribution and to say thank you.

Volunteers undertake many different roles and the pandemic has seen a large increase of people coming forward to give up their time freely to help others.

Voluntary Action South West Surrey has been asking a number of volunteers it knows well to tell their stories – who they volunteer for, why, and words of encouragement to those who may be thinking of volunteering themselves.

It has also asked a number of organisation who reply on volunteers to give examples of what their volunteers do and the difference their support makes.

Here is a selection of their stories…

Volunteers

Pat Scott.

Pat Scott

Tell us a little about yourself and your volunteering

I started volunteering with Cub Scouts in 1978. I have volunteered for the Phyllis Tuckwell Charity shop in Ash, and I have also been a trustee on various charity groups.

When the first Covid lockdown came, as chairman of the Ash and Ash Vale Community Street Team, it was decided to suspend all future outings, suspending our public liability insurance, etc.

Shortly after I helped form a group of four people to make facemasks. The masks were given away for a donation, which I set up through St Mary’s Church, and the money was given to Ash Football Club.

The project grew and grew and after giving out hundreds of masks the football club received £3,000! We were proud we had been able to financially assist our local football club to be able to purchase two sets of kit (including track suits – something they had never had), and it was decided to emblazon them all with a heart shaded in NHS rainbow colours with the words “2020 People of Ash – Thank You”!

The football club were extremely grateful. In September, I became an admin volunteer with the Ash Coronavirus Support Facebook Group and also helped with our local food parcel group. When friends say they were bored last year I just look at them quizzically!

Why did you choose to volunteer here? 

For the people of the Ash and Ash Vale community which I have been part of for over 50 years. Both my children were born here and I was proud to serve on Ash Parish Council and Guildford Borough Council to represent Ash Wharf for over 16 years. My heart is here!

What advice would you give to people interested in volunteering?

Do try volunteering, it is just so rewarding whether it be in the charity shops, any of the community groups or anywhere you feel deserves help! It also keeps you active and you can always meet new people and make new friends.

David Sindall.

David Sindall

Tell us a little about yourself and your volunteering

Most of my working life was spent in the water Industry, meeting engineers and only talking technical. My hobby is dancing and although that keeps me fit and is sociable to a large degree it is similarly not conducive to understanding how people manage themselves in a harsh world. Voluntary Action South West Surrey’s Welcome Buddies project allows me to give an empathetic, stable ear to those who are having difficulties with coping.

Why did you choose to volunteer where you do?

Welcome Buddies matches clients with volunteers, following assessment and specific objectives enabling one-to-one meetings, within a time-bounded programme.

What advice would you give people interested in volunteering?

You may have more to offer than you think.

Jan Messinger.

Jan Messinger

Tell us a little about yourself and your volunteering

I am a Worplesdon Parish Councillor, I am a volunteer trustee of the Sime Gallery at Worpledon Memorial Hall, I write a monthly column for The Guildford Dragon NEWS website about news from the parish of Worplesdon, and during the first lockdown I volunteered delivering prescription medicines from a local pharmacy to people in my area.

Why did you choose to volunteer where you do?

I enjoy being a part of my local community and doing things for it.

What advice would you give to people interested in volunteering?

You need to be reliable, committed and to have an interest in whatever your volunteering is. Also, be aware that you may well be part of a team and to do what’s required of you.

Carl Harding.

Carl Harding

Tell us a little about yourself and your volunteering

I’ve been affected by mental and physical illness most of my life. After leaving the army, I fell in with the wrong crowd and unfortunately ended up in trouble. By chance I met some people who gave me the support I desperately needed, and who inspired me to change my life around.

I joined the Joining In! Men’s Group at Park Barn where I met David Rose of Voluntary Action South West Surrey. He mentioned that The Spike Heritage Centre in Guildford needed a volunteer gardener / handyman. I thought this would a great opportunity to give something back, have something positive to focus on and meet some new people as I had been feeling quite isolated.

Why did you choose to volunteer where you do?

The garden needed a lot of work but, along with another volunteer gardener, we managed to reclaim it and are now concentrating on filling up the beds with new plants.

I now also do lots of other types of maintenance work at The Spike. This suits me as I prefer to be outside and have lots of different things to do – no two days are ever the same. I can work at my own pace with no pressure and I enjoy the friendship and camaraderie with the two other members of the maintenance team, Liam and Frances.

What advice would you give to people interested in volunteering?

Initially, I wanted to help out at a military museum and had set my heart on that, but it fell through at the last minute. However, I’m really glad I ended up at The Spike doing something completely different to what I had envisaged.

I’m so grateful to David from Voluntary Action and John Redpath, the general manager at The Spike, for giving me the opportunity when a lot of others wouldn’t give a chance to someone with my past.

It has helped to raise my self-esteem and confidence and gives me a real sense of achievement. If anyone is thinking of taking up a volunteering role, please go ahead and have a go and keep an open mind as to what you can do.

Shirley West with her British Empire Medal.

Shirley West

Tell us a little about yourself and your volunteering

I am the leader of the British Heart Foundation’s Guildford area fundraising team. I also host Macmillan Cancer Support’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning fundraising events, plus I have helped to raise funds for the Challengers playscheme for young people.

Why did you choose to volunteer where you do?

I am a people person and I love organising events and helping people, particularly with the British Heart Foundation and its work to combat heart disease. Since 1987 I have helped to raise £10 million locally for the BHF. For every £1 raised, 90p goes exactly into providing equipment, this includes heart monitors used by the Royal Surrey County Hospital.

What advice would you give to people interested in volunteering?

To be a volunteer fundraiser you have to enjoy charity work and enjoy meeting people and talking to them. Always smile and make them feel you are genuinely interested in them.

Jason Wiggins.

Jason Wiggins

Tell us a little about yourself and your volunteering

With Voluntary Action South West Surrey, I volunteer by buddying and peer mentoring people it supports through its Welcome Buddies project. I also volunteer at a care home, chatting to residents and playing board games with them. Previously, I volunteered at the Cellar Café in Godalming, tidying things up at the end of opening hours. I have volunteered at Headway Surrey, by peer mentoring clients and helping out with its training workshops for people who have brain injuries.

Why did you choose to volunteer where you do?

I volunteer as I am not well enough to have a paid job. I like to help people so they can improve their lives and that helps me as well.

What advice would you give to people interested in volunteering?

Have a look to see what opportunities are out there. You can try something and if it does not suit you, you can easily try something else. You may feel anxious about starting a volunteer role, but do try to overcome your fears. Remember, volunteers are often more valuable than paid workers – it’s because volunteers choose to be there.

Claire.

Claire

Tell us a little about yourself and your volunteering

I am retired, I enjoy walking my dogs, playing tennis and badminton and spending time with my friends and family. I chose to volunteer with Voluntary Action South West Surrey’s Welcome Buddies project as I feel that helping people with mental health issues is valuable and rewarding work and something I can bring some relevant skills and experience to.

Why did you choose to volunteer where you do?

I have also recently started volunteering as a community mediator for Mediation Surrey as I feel community disputes have a very negative effect on individuals and I enjoy the challenge of facilitating people to address their problems.

What advice would you give to people interested in volunteering?

I would advise anyone interested in volunteering to take time to really look into all the opportunities available before they make a commitment. Also, to be patient as checks and training can take longer to complete than they would for paid employment and it takes a while to build up experience and skills when you’re doing something on a very part-time basis.

Karen Taylor.

Karen Taylor

Tell us a little about yourself and your volunteering

I’m a music graduate from the University of Surrey and I spent some time living in Park Barn, Guildford as a student and in the years after graduating. I have volunteered in a few different roles in that area, mainly as part of St Clare’s Church, as a Community Angel (someone who befriends a lonely / vulnerable person and helps empower them to connect with others), and with the Rhythm of Life Community Choir.

Why did you choose to volunteer where you do?

I love the community feel in the Park Barn area and wanted to serve the people there. And there happened to be opportunities to volunteer using the skills and talents I have. I found volunteering to be a great way to meet people away from the university and make friends, and also found it built my confidence in my own abilities as well as making me feel good about helping others.

What advice would you give to people interested in volunteering?

My advice would be to offer what you have. In all the roles I have volunteered in, the people have all been different and there is room for all sorts of personalities and skills. At a toddler group I make tea and coffee, at a food bank I stuffed bags, at choir I wave my arms and help others sound good – there is no “one-size-fits-all” volunteer. The hardest bit for me was the first step of offering my help, and the answer is usually a resounding “Yes, we’d love your help”.

Liz Lodge.

Liz Lodge

Tell us a little about yourself and your volunteering

I am employed by Voluntary Action South West Surrey as a social prescribing link worker. At one time I was in a very challenging relationship. As a result, I struggled with anorexia. Part of my recovery involved attending Creative Response, an art charity based in Farnham. It supports those suffering with mental ill-health.

Why did you choose to volunteer where you do?

When I recovered, I was no longer eligible to attend Creative Response, but I felt so moved by their work, I remained involved by becoming a volunteer. This allowed me to spend time in a creative environment which was safe and secure, and enabled me to use my own difficult experiences to support other people at very difficult times in their lives.

What advice would you give to people interested in volunteering?

If you have time available to volunteer I would encourage you to do so. It is an opportunity for you to be involved with something you are interested in, and may not have the skills to secure paid employment in this area. It is important to remember that you are giving up your free time and therefore should volunteer in a role that brings you pleasure.

Bryony Rose.

Bryony Rose

Tell us a little about yourself and your volunteering

Most recently, during my final semester at Oxford Brookes University, I have been volunteering with the research fellow and collections assistant at The Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History, based at the Brookes’ Harcourt Hill campus. During this four-week placement, I wrote condition reports of the artworks and objects within two collections housed there – the Methodist Church House collection and the Bletchley Park Collection. As most works were photographs, although some were oil or watercolour pieces, my main job was to note the condition of the frames, highlighting any damages. Previously, I have stewarded at Watts Gallery Artists’ Village in Compton, and I carried out a week-long work experience at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, helping to co-ordinate children’s activities.

Why did you choose to volunteer here? 

Each volunteering placement has contributed to my degree in History of Art, helping me access contacts and knowledge to aid me in future employment.

What advice would you give to people interested in volunteering?

Volunteering as a student has been highly rewarding. If you are able to volunteer in the field of your study it is a brilliant way to gain contacts and knowledge of the type of paid work available.

Organisations

Guildford Lions Club.

Guildford Lions Club

How many volunteers do you have?

We are a membership organisation of volunteers. We currently have 45 members, all of whom volunteer their time.

What do they do?

The Lions’ mantra is “We Serve” our local communities. We organise various fundraising events (such as the Fireworks Fiesta in Stoke Park, the Easter Fayre at Shalford Park, the Raft Race on the River Wey). Those funds are used to provide for the needy in Guildford ranging from provision of items of furniture (cookers, fridges, carpets, etc), to the supply of creativity packs to school children during the pandemic, to supermarket vouchers at Christmas, and outings for the elderly as well as for young carers. We have also channelled some funds into other charities such as the Guildford food banks, and children’s charities such as Cherry Trees, Shooting Star Chase, and Challengers, and various others too. Simply put, one will find that “where there is a need, there is a Lion”. We also ensure we have fun in all that we do and include various social events for the members within our annual calendar.

What difference do they make to your organisation?

We are the organisation. Without our combined inputs Lions would not exist.

Staff at The Guildford Institute From left, Vicky Pursey, Amy Mason, Amy Rice, Chelsea Eves and Emma Wilkinson.

The Guildford Institute

How many volunteers do you have?

We have 30 volunteers.

What do they do?

What don’t they do? is probably a more appropriate question! Our volunteers help us with an extraordinarily wide range of tasks. Volunteers can be found throughout our building, working in our historic library and archive, welcoming our visitors and helping with our event set-ups. Lots of people also provide really valuable support behind the scenes, including local professionals acting as volunteers to provide advice on matters such as HR regulations, to attending ‘brochure stuffing parties’ to help us prepare the mail-out of our termly brochure to several thousand people, and even help with our ever-persistent pile of shredding! Our volunteers have been really flexible during the past year, with some still continuing to offer support while working from home. We have also used this time to think about possible new volunteer roles that we’d like to develop, and look forward to welcoming a newly dedicated marketing intern to our team shortly, for example.

What difference do they make to your organisation?

Our volunteers make a humungous contribution to The Guildford Institute. Our board of trustees are all volunteers and provide extremely helpful oversight and strategic guidance, encouraging the continual development of our organisation. Our historic library and archive are manned solely be a volunteer team, and without the support of these individuals, this historic asset would not be accessible to Guildford residents and beyond. In summary, our volunteers provide an incredible support to our staff team, enabling the Institute to grow and offer a far wider range of activities to the local community as a result. Put simply, we couldn’t operate without them!

Cherry Trees volunteer.

Cherry Trees, East Clandon

How many volunteers do you have?

We have more than 200 community volunteers who help on a regular and / or ad-hoc basis.

What do they do?

They bake cakes, put up gazebos, do graphic design, deliver our Impact Report magazine, run stalls, make items for us to sell or raffle, in fact one hundred and one things! We also have more than 40 volunteers who help us on a regular basis at Cherry Trees with minibus driving, gardening, cooking and administration, plus of course our eight dedicated trustees.

What difference do they make to your organisation?

The world of difference. We are charity at the heart of our community and without our volunteers, we just could not function and be here for our children and families. We provide vital respite care for children with complex disabilities and our holistic approach supports them, their families and their siblings. We have remained open every day of the pandemic so far, to be here for them and support them. This could not happen without volunteers.

Charles Marriott, Holy Cross Hospital.

Holy Cross Hospital, Haslemere

How many volunteers do you have?

We currently have 19 active volunteers, one or two of the older ones having decided not to return to us, but the rest are gradually returning once they are four weeks past their second jab. We also have three new volunteers waiting to make informal visits and do their induction and DBS check.

What do they do?

They do a wide range of tasks to enable us to offer a far better range and quality of social activities than we possibly could without their help. The majority of volunteer time is spent helping in our activities reach morning, especially with our weekly art group where patients need one-to-one support. They also help us with outings, and they spend time individually with some patients. We also have a small group of volunteer drivers who help particularly with hospital appointments.

What difference do they make to your organisation?

Our volunteers bring a fresh living presence into a very different human landscape marked by severe and complex neurological problems. A different voice, a gentle touch on the shoulder, a short walk out into the fresh air, all undertaken out of compassionate understanding, and informed by our regular volunteers’ forum meetings. As mentioned above, we could not do what we do without our volunteers.

Gemma of Reconnections.

Reconnections by Independent Age Guildford and Waverley

How many volunteers do you have?

We currently have 31 active volunteers and 11 at the application / clearance stage.

What do they do?

They get introduced to people who are feeling lonely and isolated in our community and help them to rediscover their love of life by reconnecting with community groups, people, activities and re-engaging with things going on in their community to build up their independence and resilience.

What difference do they make to your organisation?

The Reconnections model has volunteers at its centre. We rely on local people getting involved and wanting to support an older person within their community. They revitalise and re-energise people who are struggling to break the cycle of loneliness. They are supportive, inspirational and motivational, and without volunteers Reconnections wouldn’t be able to reach as many people as we currently do.

Yvonne Arnaud Theatre volunteers Susan, Rosa and Len.

The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford

How many volunteers do you have?

We currently have 45 volunteers registered and active.

What do they do?

We have front-of-house and gardening volunteers. Some volunteers do one or the other, some do both, which is wonderful.

The gardening volunteers have been coming in twice a week to clear the overgrown plants in our garden and on the terrace. We can now see across the river, and the theatre can be seen from Millbrook for the first time in a very long time.

The front-of-house volunteer ushers form a core part of our customer-facing team when there are shows. They welcome audience members at the doors, check tickets, show people to their seats and sell ices and merchandise. Ushers are central to the customer experience and play an important part with safety, in case of emergencies.

What difference do they make to your organisation?

The volunteers will make a massive contribution to the theatre as time goes on (due to Covid we have been closed, so they have yet to get really started). Giving a warm welcome to our audiences, and keeping the venue safe for them are central to our existence, and the volunteers are helping us to do this. We also know that coming to the theatre is an important opportunity for some people to make friends and socialise, so the benefits are mutual. The theatre is a charity and a community hub, and our volunteers bring a lively energy that helps to make the theatre an enjoyable place to be.

Anne and Susanna at Community Angels.

Community Angels

How many volunteers do you have?

We have 46 volunteers.

What do they do? 

Community Angels are volunteer befrienders who support adults of all ages in Guildford who are lonely and/or isolated. This often, but not always, means that they have little meaningful contact with others during their week. Some of our clients face a complex range of issues: physical or mental health challenges, or mild learning disabilities. Others are facing difficult life circumstances: bereavement, transitioning from homelessness, being rehoused in a new area after escaping an abusive relationship, or being a carer. Or they might face problems associated with growing older: recovering from falls, loss of mobility or returning home after long hospital stays. We give weekly one-to-one support, offering a listening, non-judgemental ear, companionship and encouragement to engage with the local community. We work face-to-face wherever we can, for a period of around six months, although we can provide telephone support for people who are unable (usually for health reasons) to meet in person.

What difference do they make to your organisation?

Our fantastic volunteers are essential to our organisation: without them there would be no befriending! We are delighted that their work has been recognised with the Mayor’s Award for Service to the Community 2021.

Voluntary Action South West Surrey is including these profiles during Volunteers’ Week on its Facebook page and Twitter feed. For details of current volunteering opportunities throughout the boroughs of Guildford and Waverley, click here on Voluntary Action’s website.

Voluntary Action is the Council for Voluntary Service for Guildford and Waverley Borough Councils. It runs a number of projects to assist people who need some extra help to become volunteers and also gives free advice to groups, organisations and charities who need volunteers. This advice covers how to apply for funding, good management of volunteers, setting up a charity and more.

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