Volunteers Week

Annually across the country Volunteers Week is celebrated 1-7th June. Although this year might be slightly different we would really love to celebrate all the wonderful work that volunteers do!

We have lots of amazing stories to share with you this week so will be updating this page daily. Please share online and reach out to volunteers you know to say thank you.

Volunteering truly makes such a difference to people lives. There are many ways to get involved and a whole variety of organisations to volunteer for, if you would like to volunteer please sign up https://volunteersouthend.co.uk/apply-for-volunteering

Alex – South Essex Community Hub (01.06.20)

Alex has been doing amazing work all year round as well as during this COVID-19 crisis!
As a mother of four in the Queensway estate she has built numerous connections with her neighbours and the local school and is able to highlight issues for the residents. She has worked tirelessly during the pandemic responding to emergency situations 7 days a week supporting those who are shielding. Alongside this she is also a Youth Coordinator for SECH and has continued to provide mentoring for young people. She has been able to provide structure and act as a positive role model to tackle isolation. The sessions she runs are designed around goal setting and modelling positive behaviour.

Thanks Alex! 👏

Pearl – 57 west (02.06.20)

I have worked with children and young people for most of my working career. When my working life changed and I found I had lots of free time during the day, I thought maybe some voluntary work doing what I know best. I met with Amber at the HUB, and discussed various options, one of which was working with rough sleepers and the homeless community, which was something I had never done before or ever considered. My email address was given to a few organisations that were looking for volunteers. I received 3 replies, one of which was from 57west. I replied to the email and was invited in for a chat.

I walked into a very busy cafe serving hot food and drinks, in a very relaxed environment. The atmosphere felt warm and welcoming and I knew immediately, I had made the right choice, that was before even speaking to the volunteer coordinator. I started working one day per week then two days, then added Saturdays. Working with the community is one of the best decisions I have ever made and have been treated with kindness and respect from people who have nothing but what they carry. I have experienced their resilience and how when needed they look out for each other, a lot can be learned! And the realisation of what they are going through could happen to any one of us. I’ve also met a lot of lovely volunteers whom I have learned a lot from. Working with the community is so rewarding, and when at the end of a session and people are leaving, but seek you out to say bye and ‘are you coming in tomorrow’?  That makes me feel, I have made a difference.

I always thought volunteering would feel good…. but never imagined the real feeling you get from doing it. I feel privileged to be able to help out at 57 West.

Lucian – ATF (02.06.20)

Lucian is an apprentice who works with the Hub in Southend. He is a member of the Roma community and has supported residents where English is not first language and where they were having difficulties navigating the system.

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Catrina –  Silver Birch Centres by Carers Choices The Hub Southend (03.06.20)

I grew up in Southend-on-sea, but lived elsewhere in my 20s.
Home was calling me though, and I moved back just in time to ‘hit the big three-oh’ in the town that held my heart. Living in Southend for the first time as an adult, I connected with the place in a new way. I wanted to really experience the local community and immerse myself within it. I decided that volunteering was the way to go.

In December (‘19), when I walked through the doors of the South Essex Community Hub (SECH) at Southend Victoria, I had only very vague notions of meeting people and helping people – I was clueless! I received a warm welcome from volunteers at the front desk, and sat down with Amber (Volunteer Coordinator) to discuss my availability and any preferences for a certain type of volunteer role.

Despite the busy Christmas period, within a week, Amber had emailed several volunteer options to me. I read through each carefully and decided upon trying the ‘activities coordinator’ role at the Silver Birch Day Activity Centre for people living with dementia. On my first day at the Silver Birch centre, I was very pleased to see that this was a happy, safe and caring place to be. Alongside the carers, and with their guidance and help, I enjoyed setting up games, quizzes and other activities tailored for the cognitive stimulation of the lovely men and women using the service. I also helped with (and enjoyed myself!) the themed arts & crafts and lunches for Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, with copious tea and biscuits in-between. In the mornings, we also delighted in going next door to join the pre-school children in singing nursery rhymes. I loved chatting about children, grandchildren, postings in the war, pets, music, careers, first loves and days gone by. You can learn a lot from talking and listening. I also found great satisfaction in finding activities to peak peoples interest, who might otherwise doze away the afternoon.

After a few weeks volunteering at the Silverbirch centre, I decided that I wanted to do more. Since having such a good experience with SECH, I contacted them to find if I could use my career skills to help the charity itself. After an afternoons’ chat with a selection of the charity trustees, I was happily accepted on-board as a Trustee myself. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, which sadly prevents me from volunteering with Silverbirch, for the time being I was spending my Friday morning with the lovely Folk at Silver Birch, and the afternoons in the Southend Victoria Hub working on ways to demonstrate the value of the charity. Since the pandemic began, I have been focusing more on SECH and working to support the charity however I can.

I have loved meeting so many new people, hearing stories, trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone. I am also learning a lot about the third sector and how much work goes into helping the local community. If you’re in two minds about giving volunteering a go – don’t hesitate! You won’t regret it.

Toro The Hub Southend (03.06.20)

Toro volunteered to support an elderly person who had a broken mobile phone, they needed a phone to be able to get help during this crisis. A request came through via the council and with Toro’s help he sourced a Samsung Smartphone donated by a kind member of the public. He managed to set it up and deliver it to the elderly person, who was so relived and touched by the kindness in the community.

Peter – Everyone Health Southend (04.06.20)

Peter started volunteering with Everyone Health during the COVID-19 crisis. Peter’s role was to liaise with the Service Manager Amy Young at Everyone Health to collect prescriptions from pharmacies and deliver to vulnerable people across Southend. Peter expressed the following “I have loved volunteering for Everyone Health and met some lovely people on my travels. Two in particular come to mind. Firstly a gentlemen in Chalkwell, who told me in a delightful conversation that he was stationed in the African desert in the Second World War. When I said I saluted him for his services for our country in those difficult times, he saluted me for my volunteering efforts in these modern day times. It really brought a lump to my throat, and I could have stayed chatting to such a kind and lovely gentleman all day.

The second person was a grateful lady in Southend. She was so appreciative of my efforts. When I left her prescription, she was upset that there was nothing for her daughter, who was down to her last dose of medicine. I immediately returned to the pharmacy, jokingly saying I needed a drink on such a hot day. When I returned, the lady had a cuppa made ready for me – sadly I couldn’t accept this due to the times, but the thought was so kind. As I left she said my efforts had saved her a great deal of worry and the world needed more people like myself in it. I enjoy volunteering for other causes in Southend too and will continue to do so”. Amy stated “Peter was an absolute delight to have volunteering with us at Everyone Health, he made my Saturdays very enjoyable working alongside him, I hope Peter can continue volunteering with us after COVID-19 too, he is such an enthusiastic and excellent volunteer.”

Corrina – Shopping Volunteer & Befriender The Hub Southend Age Concern Southend on Sea (05.06.20)

I had never thought of being a volunteer before covid-19 but as I work in a school I found myself with time on my hands when they were closed. I am an active out door person and not really very good at sitting down in doors so I decided to look into volunteering opportunities as a way to keep myself busy, fill my time and help others. I signed up to help people with their shopping and also to be a Age Concern befriender. It has been a pleasure to meet new people and to talk to them on the phone and hopefully provide some support during these difficult times. Being a befriender has opened my eyes to how isolated some of the most vulnerable people in our community are- not just now, but in more normal times as well.

In talking to people on the phone I have been able to find out from them that they would like to get out more and meet people of a similar age when this is all over. This has prompted me to talk to Age Concern and I am quite surprised how many things are available through Age Concern and other charities. Including a 50+ club in Westcliff that has snooker, carpet bowls, Jigsaw puzzles and arts and crafts. They also offer keep fit and tai chi. They have a café and services such as podiatry and hair dressing. They also provide community clubs in Leigh and Rayleigh. Regular afternoon teas with entertainment, barn dances and quiz nights are held.

Doing peoples shopping has been challenging and is surprisingly more difficult picking out food when it isn’t for yourself, but has been rewarding seeing people happy when I have brought them their shopping and having a quick natter at the same time.

I wasn’t completely sure about volunteering before but now having done it I plan to continue volunteering after the pandemic is over. I feel lucky to have been a part of volunteering network and my working experience has enabled me to put many skills in place to be a part of this.

All these behind the scenes, charities and volunteers do an amazing job and it is apparent that many more people need support and volunteers are needed in every day things to keep these organisations going.

Peter – ATF (05.06.20)

Peter is a fitness and conditioning coach for ATF. He is also a member of the Roma community. He has focused his time on carrying out weekly shopping for residents of Shoebury. He has also run online fitness sessions and supported at risk and key worker children through schools to run a program of social distanced fitness.

Anonymous – Winter Night Shelter (06.06.20)

Until a few years ago I had always wanted to volunteer but my anxiety and low self-confidence stopped me. It all changed when I started a new job which involved working with families in the local community, and talking to people every day at children’s centres, foodbanks, community groups etc. As I started to gain confidence in talking to new people (something I’ve always struggled with!) I decided to think about how I could help out somewhere in my spare time.

I found out about the Winter Night Shelter through community group pages that I follow on Facebook and saw that they needed volunteers for the morning shift. The commitment was an hour or two every other week, just one morning to help with cleaning and clearing up. I contacted the manager and before I knew it, it was a dark and freezing November morning at 6am and I was arriving at the church for my first shift. I was so nervous, I didn’t know what to expect, and for the first ten minutes I couldn’t even find the right door to get in! But I soon found some welcoming faces and the guests showed me in.

After that first shift my anxieties and nerves were put to rest. I started doing shifts almost every week rather than fortnightly and even though cleaning toilets might not be everyone’s first choice, I found it really rewarding and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve now finished a second season and will be starting a third this winter. The role is really flexible and I’ve worked at three different churches to suit the mornings that I can fit in before work.

I would encourage anyone, no matter how little you can offer, do something in your spare time for others. It will make a huge difference to those in need, but also to your own health and wellbeing.

More great shopping support volunteers!

Charise – Shopping Support (06.06.20)
Charise helps out 2 days a week with shopping and collecting prescriptions for shielding residents. She has also helped with the distribution of emergency food parcels as she drives and was able to assist us with deliveries.

Helen – Shopping Support (06.06.20)
Helen lives on the Queensway Estate. Helen supports shopping support 3 days a week. She now is buddied up to over 10 residents and has built a relationship with the families she shops for.

Alison – Shopping Support (06.06.20)
Alison is a committee member of SECH who has turned her life around and is now volunteering for SECH on a daily basis. She Collects and delivers prescriptions for residents.

Kara – Shopping Support (06.06.20)
Kara is a young person who wanted to give something back to the community by volunteering. Kara helps out 1 day a week but is always on call and has helped a lot with delivering emergency food parcels and shopping.

Ash – Shopping Support (06.06.20)
Ash is an apprentice at the Hub and has supported young families through his network who are having to self isolate. He has worked tirelessly to ensure that people have not gone without seven days a week.

THANK YOU!

A huge thank you to all volunteers who shared their stories with us! We hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as we have.

Thank you to all the volunteers across the country who give up their time to support charities. This year more than ever, we have seen the huge difference volunteers make to the local community. In Southend over a thousand people signed up to support during COVID-19 pandemic. This is an amazing response and says so much about our town.

Volunteering is such a positive and rewarding time in your life and every bit of support really does make a great difference. Happy Volunteers Week to you all!