Big celebrations are taking place across Chichester and Bognor Regis to honour the work of volunteers.
Volunteers’ Week is an annual event but this year it is bigger than ever, having been extended to run for 12 days, from June 1 to 12.
Central in the celebrations is Voluntary Action Arun and Chichester (VAAC), which provides information and news to voluntary and community groups in the area.
Jenny Holmes, Volunteer Now! administrator, said: “We know just how important volunteers are to the organisations they support and that without them, many of the invaluable services they provide just wouldn’t happen.
“So on behalf of all our members, we would like to say a massive thank you to all those who give up some of their time to volunteer.”
Part of the mission at VAAC is to make the process of volunteering as rewarding and straightforward as possible, for both the individual looking to volunteer and the organisation they want to support.
For people who are interested in becoming a volunteer, it offers Introduction to Volunteering workshops.
“These are a brilliant way to start the journey, exploring what being a volunteer means, what a volunteer’s rights and responsibilities are, and what skills and experiences people have that may be transferable to a voluntary role, as well as looking at some of the opportunities that are available in the local area,” explained Jenny.
For organisations, VAAC provides support and advice in a number of ways.
The Volunteer Now! service, for example, can help them to advertise any volunteer roles that they have available on the do-it website (www.do-it.org), in the local paper and via the social media pages.
It is also able to refer on any potential volunteers who are interested.
The Volunteer Co-ordinators Network meets regularly throughout the year to enable anyone who manages or co-ordinates volunteers to get together, share best practice, discuss issues and receive training or support.
Jenny added: “We are also very pleased to be launching our Volunteering Health Check to help organisations to ensure they have all the best policies and procedures in place regarding the recruitment, management and support of volunteers.
“The health check is available free of charge to all VAAC member organisations and can help to assess the current processes that are in place and provide an action list to help the organisation work more effectively with volunteers.”
Over the last year, VAAC has registered 457 potential new volunteers, advertised 141 new volunteer opportunities and currently supports approximately 250 organisations with volunteer recruitment.
Jenny said: “We believe volunteers play an essential role within our local area and as we celebrate the hundreds of people who are already volunteering their time and skills, we would like to make the local volunteer community even bigger and stronger.
“Do you have anything you would like to shout about this Volunteer’s Week? Do you have an amazing volunteer that you’d like to say thank you to? Or maybe your organisation wouldn’t be able to exist without your volunteers? Are you planning a celebration to say thank you to your volunteers? Let us know using #VolWeekVaac so we can share the celebrations.”
To find out how to help, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01243 840305.
Meanwhile, ‘very special’ volunteers have been celebrated by Bognor and Chichester District Samaritans during Volunteers’ Week.
The charity has welcomed new volunteers to the branch this year, as well as saying goodbye to long-standing and valuable volunteers.
Anne Wales, director, said: “It takes a very special kind of person who is willing to volunteer with an organisation which asks them to be available at the most unsocial hours of the day and night.
“Recently, the national statistics showed that 49 per cent of calls to the Samaritns come through from 10pm to 3am and we all know how vital it is to be there for callers during that time.
“This year the branch has managed to nearly do that by keeping active until 2am every day of the week. This shows true dedication by everyone and especially those volunteers who have to travel quite a way.”
Technology has changed and people have changed the way they communicate – 20 per cent of people do not use their mobile phones for phone calls – so Samaritans has adapted, too.
Texts, e mails and a presence at A&E and day centres are other ways volunteers support people who are distressed or worried.
Anne added: “Much is asked of our volunteers and much is given and very appreciated by the Samaritans organisation.”
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