Welcome to Volunteers Week 2021!
Thank you to all volunteers who have been key to supportting our community in so many different ways:
Vaccine Drivers, Passenger Assistants, Minibus Drivers, Mental Health Drop ins Volunteers, Trustees, Admin and IT Volunteers, COVID Picker Packers, Practical Assistants, Christmas Volunteers, Phone Befrienders, Zoom Befrienders….. and so many roles in between!
This is just a part of what you achieved:
Food parcels: packed and delivered: 5,249 that went out to people shielding and self-isolating
Befriending phone calls: 1,485 matches over the last year with close to 600 befriendees being currently supported
PA requests: 569 people helped/supported with things such as dog walking, collection of medicine, gas/electricity topups, etc.
Christmas: 2,915 adults and children were supported through toy gifts, supermarket vouchers, food hampers and a Christmas Eve meal delivery in partnership with Salvation Army.
Please have a look at the photos and stories below that will give you a snapshot of the past year.
We could not do this work without you.
Thank you from all of us at VSL.
Two Experiences of phone befriending:
“I am disabled permanent wheelchair user and have been volunteering since I was 14 years old when I learned to scuba dive as one of the first disabled scuba divers in Europe in the early 1990s. I used to volunteer in beach clean ups on the shore and under the water, and this where my deep interest and passion for volunteering started.
I have been a part of voluntary studies networks since before the early noughties, and throughout 2013, I was an honorary research associate at the Centre of Philanthropy at the University of Kent. It was being a befriender with VSL that led me to be part of the vaccination programme at Downham, where I became involved as a volunteer steward. This gave me the opportunity to not only work through the telephone line but also on the ground with outside projects.
When Covid-19 hit, my natural instinct was to find ways of how to get involve and help.
Volunteering has a great input into which you feel the involvement and inclusion is from everyone in the community, and you felt anyone who was willing to be of help during the pandemic, could help and there was no feeling of patronising or condescending through the advertisement and labelling for volunteers. Therefore, you could do the work knowing the service could be reached on all levels of the community with understanding of how to help.
Advertisement through leaflets and email updates of volunteer schemes in Lewisham made me aware of the different opportunities. The first lockdown happened so quickly and as the second wave approached, I was able to get my advanced VSL DBS check arranged and start being involved with the telephone befriending project.
The Governments strong emphasis on the meaning of those who were ‘vulnerable’ throughout the pandemic, gave me the impression that some people were incapable of offering help to those in need, and the response to the pandemic could only be received one specific way, from certain type of audience described as ‘fit and able’ and they alone could offer the service to the community.
It was as if they did not take into consideration there were some; for example, disabled people who were classified to shield maybe related to age, had certain skills that could have been of great help with the outbreak.
I was very involved in the 1st wave in the response with projects within Lewisham and elsewhere. I felt empowered and enabled in all my volunteering in Lewisham. Other boroughs (the borough where I live) was stipulating on roles disabled people with certain characteristics could not or must not volunteer without any justification or reason. Well, ‘this girl can’ and most definitely was going to play her part in helping in the response to the pandemic.
Where I could volunteer, and the place where I was made welcome, was Lewisham. Thank you to all the organisations including VSL who made me feel empowered at a time when many like me were being made powerless, voiceless and volunteered on.
The response to the pandemic has been to reach out with the need to care, since we are social beings and human.
Living alone, as well as focussing on volunteering has been a key part of giving me a sense of purpose and self-worth, supporting my wellbeing, and has helped with my mental wellbeing.
Befriending is a great way to have a conversation with someone different, it helps with isolation and people who are kept in their own bubbles, to still be part of the community though it is all done virtually.
Showing support and pastoral care through calling people just to find out how they are personal doing, helped with providing information that service users can be part of groups to interact through Zoom calls.
Being part of the volunteers, VSL had zoom inductions and two or three workshops to support volunteers in getting to know one another, discuss their feelings and express what they have gained from befriending. During the lock downs the meetings through zoom were quite regular and having this opportunity was very supportive.”
Service User Story
Philly registered for the national voluntary service in the first coronavirus lockdown because he felt it was the right thing to do. He wanted to help. He explains he wanted to contribute because of the national emergency. His partner then found out about the local voluntary service and Philly registered for that. He was contacted to provide befriending and was matched to D who he describes as ‘very lively’.
Philly explains it’s fun to have a chat with D who is very appreciative. He feels befriending makes a big difference and that the calls help D who is alone and isolated. As he puts it, befriending is ‘fun but has real value’. He also finds it rewarding to chat with someone who has had very different life experiences as D is a 99-year-old who’s lived through wars and seen many changes.
Volunteers Kathryn and Paul getting ready to pick up Service Users and take them to the day centre in Grove Park
The COVID-19 foodbank in full swing at the Leemore Centre during the first lockdown
Early morning shopping at Lidl Lee High Road to supplement the foodbank during COVID-19
Christmas Hampers being delivered by Lewisham Fire Brigade – in between callouts
Food Bank box assembly champion. Box taping skills were regularly tested in competition to see who was the best
Petra and a Volunteer keeping the Christmas Hamper production line flowing