Volunteers' week is celebrated on the 1st to the 7th June every year and is an opportunity to say thank you to the millions of people who contribute to their communities selflessly. This last year has seen a new wave of volunteers and opportunities to volunteer and without these incredible people certain things like the vaccine programme would not have been as successful. Volunteers don't do things for thanks but we must never forget how many activities, charities and events would not be possible without them so its great to have this week to celebrate these individuals.
MPI have some of these wonderful individuals working for us and today we want to celebrate them and the charities/teams/communities they support. The theme for today is Volunteers voices which is about hearing what it is that makes voluntary work so rewarding so we'd like to share thoughts from some of these individuals.
Firstly lets start with some COVID heroes, Jenna Cataldo and Kerrie Hill. Jenna is one of our newest recruits and before starting with us found herself, like so many others throughout this pandemic, in the unfortunate position of being out of work. Rather than focusing on the negative, she decided to do something positive and volunteer as in her words "I was very aware that the pandemic meant that certain groups of people were having to work so much harder than usual, which didn’t feel very fair at all" Jenna signed up as a volunteer with St Johns Ambulance to administer the vaccine which as we all know is a world renowned success thanks to the thousands of volunteers like Jenna. Even though Jenna has since started with us she has admirably continued to volunteer in her spare time.
Kerrie has actually been with MPI for several years but also felt inspired to volunteer for pandemic related support, in her case in the shape of a NHS Volunteer Responder. Here is more about the programme in Kerrie's own words:
I signed up to be an NHS Volunteer Responder in March 2020 when the pandemic first started, they were looking for volunteers for their new Check In and Chat Service. When I first signed up I was just providing telephone support to people that were self-Isolating in the local area but the demand quickly grew across the UK and from all walks of life.
The support we give is to make a one off call with the person you are given, to just check in on them to make sure they are ok and just be a listening ear and to report back to the service if you feel that the person needs further assistance.
It’s been such a successful service that it’s still running even though the Government restrictions have started to ease. The pandemic and lockdowns have caused a lot of issues with confidence, self-esteem, mental health and loneliness so it’s just a service to try to make a little difference in people’s lives and it has been very rewarding.
Kerrie is also a volunteer for AGE UK for their Telephone Friendship Service. She has been doing this for five years so her motivation to start was different and very inspiring:
"I came across the service completely by chance after hearing a very touching story on how their service had turned someone’s life around. The person had recently lost his wife after over 50 years of marriage, he was suffering from depression and was extremely lonely. The only person he saw every week was the person who served him at the till when he went to the local supermarket. He signed up for the friendship service and his volunteer totally changed his life, he is no longer on anti-depressants and signed up to local groups in the area all thanks to the support and encouragement from his telephone friend.
The Telephone Friendship Service match you with an older person who has signed up for the service and the commitment you make is to call that person at the same time once a week for a friendly chat. It’s amazing how just giving up an hour of your time once a week can really make a difference to someone else’s life.
During 2020 the volunteers made over 92,000 calls to older people and the team at the Telephone Friendship Service made nearly 24,000 short friendship calls to older people waiting to be matched to a volunteer. Sadly during the pandemic the demand for the service had gone up 400% from older people needing support."
Well done to Kerrie for being a super volunteer.
One person who surprised himself by volunteering was our managing director Simon Henser. Simons career, particularly on the rail side has often eaten into what we would traditionally call our "off time". As a man who our clients would confirm is always on call adding to his schedule would seem an impossible task but hear from him on what changed this and why he would recommend it:
"When I was asked to run a under 11s girls football team I said I didn’t have the time, when I spoke to my wife about it she said you don’t have the time, it was our initial gut reaction. However, when I attended the next training session I watched all the other coaches, people from lots of different background all volunteering their time for free and I thought again they don’t have the time but they make time and without all those volunteers there wouldn’t be any grassroots football for children like my daughter so I decided then to make time !
Training 14 girls under 10 was totally out of my comfort zone, yes I have two daughters, but always struggled when we had birthday parties and had to do the party games with all their friends. My wife would find me disappearing to send an email or take a call but when its training or match days you can’t send a call or an email, in fact you don’t think about work you think about them and helping them to learn and enjoy playing football. There is never the time to be a volunteer but the appreciation and the happiness you get from the children in my team and their parents makes it all worth it for a small but worthwhile sacrifice, even when you lose or it rains !"
Another volunteer in a similar vein is Julie Barnes who volunteers to make sure there is a future for her sport. As a horse lover, owner, rider and rosette winner, Julie gives back by volunteering when she is not competing at events to ensure they can still go ahead. In a world full of safety regulations so few events would be able to take place without wonderful support like Julies. In fact this weekend she is a steward at a Tandem meet whose aim is to maintain and promote the art of tandem driving in the traditional form of coachman like style carriage driving.
Within MPI we have volunteers in PTA's, Beavers, Environmental and Community Events and Charities but we cannot mention them all, however I am sure everyone would like to raise a glass, or a cheer, or both to say thanks to each and every one. This last year may have put volunteer work in the spotlight but it has been part of our culture for years and without it/the individuals we wouldn't have the country and opportunities we do. Thank you each and every one!!!