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Volunteering 2.0

As it’s Volunteers’ Week we’ve found some of the more unusual or surprising things that volunteers do. 

Drinking cocktails in a care home

Feeling in need of a drink after work and like the idea of meeting people outside your usual circle?  Say cheers to Cocktails in Care Homes! Intergenerational charity Magic Me runs cocktail parties every Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 6pm – 7.30pm in London care homes. Volunteers get to socialise, serve drinks and chat with residents. And have a drink themselves of course. They’re hoping to expand to other areas.

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(Photo: by Paul Williams for People’s Postcode Lottery and Magic Me)

Chris Ali has been volunteering at Cocktails in Care Homes for over five years and is now a party manager:

“To be honest, when I first started volunteering I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. 6 years I ago I went from working multiple part-time jobs which took up almost all my time, to a full-time 35-hour a week job. Because of this I had an abundance of free time that I was struggling to fill (Netflix wasn’t a thing at the time) and was finding that I was becoming bored because of it. On my break at work one day I came across an article in the Metro which featured the “Cocktails in Care Homes” project being run by Magic Me, an intergenerational arts charity, which I went on to sign up to. At first it defiantly took some getting used to being in the care home environment and interacting with older residents as I had never experienced it before. But having been involved for 5 and a half years and running one of my own parties as a Party Manager, I feel considerably fortunate to have found this project to spend my time with. I’ve gained so much over my time spent on the project but by far the biggest thing I’ve gained is perspective. Like most people going through their 20s I’ve had moments of crisis of confidence, where I have felt upset or down about things like “the future”, or feelings of being lonely, or am I enough. But spending time and interacting with older people who many of them are suffering with their health and are lonely, just by me being there I can see the positive affect it has on them. Their appreciation of me being present, talking to them and showing kindness and care, and seeing some of how they live have allowed me to look at my life and really consider all the good things about my life. It has allowed me to gain a greater appreciation of my own family and, in particular, my mum, and to be a more loving, considerate and compassionate person. I am a better and much happier person than I was 5 years ago, and I owe a lot of that to volunteering.”

Contact: Phoebe Grudzinskas – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or Deborah Mason – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 020 3222 6064 

Going to gigs with a buddy who has learning disabilities

The Gig Buddies project from Stay Up Late matches up socially isolated disabled people and volunteers who share the same interests in music or other cultural passions, so they can go to gigs and events together – and hopefully ongoing friendships will develop.

Stay Up Late directly run the project across Sussex and have found increased demand from people who simply don’t have funded hours to support their social lives.

They’ve now started to share the project with other organisations around the country and three of these projects have had direct support from councils who see the benefit such as Portsmouth, Calderdale and Croydon. They’re also working with organisations in Long Eaton, Norwich, Edinburgh and even in Sydney, Australia, who are all replicating the Gig Buddies model.

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Catherine from Worthing has been a gig buddy for three and a half years. She and Anita were matched as they are similar in age, live in the same area and love 80’s bands!

Catherine says: ‘When I volunteer with Gig Buddies I support someone who wouldn’t necessarily be able to get to gigs on their own. I get to meet new people and we both get the opportunity to see bands that we love. Win-win!’

Contact: Paul Richards – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; or Kate Ogden This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.01273 600438/

Saving lives in your spare time

Dr Simon Topham is a typical GP in a rural practice in the middle of Lincolnshire. After a busy day of dealing with the unwell, he gives up his spare time to voluntarily respond to traumatic medical emergencies across the whole county regardless of time of day or location. He volunteers with LIVES, delivering complex procedures and treatments at the scene of the accident that are usually only found in an emergency department, operating theatre or Intensive Care Unit.  This may range from putting a patient into a medical coma at the roadside to prevent brain swelling, aligning severe fractures under sedation, and even performing roadside amputation or opening the chest in traumatic cardiac arrest.

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Simon has been volunteering with LIVES for more than 25 years and has saved countless lives:

“I first started volunteering for LIVES 25 years ago. After attending a lot of horrible road traffic accidents during my GP training, I understood the importance of pre-hospital emergency care, so once I moved back to Lincolnshire I signed-up to LIVES. LIVES is so much part of my life now and what keeps me going is that sense of making a difference. I think if you can be with somebody on their worst ever day and make it a bit better, or even save their life, then you’ve achieved a lot. It’s incredibly rewarding and there’s people I still feel a special bond with having made that difference for them.”

Contact: Amy Rose – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 01507 525 999, 07876 390 482

Taking vulnerable and disabled young people on sailing trips

21-year-old Jack Dignan was born with one eye. The MACS charity arranged for a group of partially-sighted children to sail with Ocean Youth Trust South. Jack stood out on that first voyage as a really inspiring young person who was quickly recommended by the skipper to sail with OYT again. He has since qualified as a volunteer watch leader; he has joined OYT South’s Board of Trustees; he is exceptionally good at working on board with disadvantaged and vulnerable young people from all backgrounds

Contact: Caroline White of Ocean Youth Trust South – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 07986 354697

Being a mate for a pregnant woman 

Maternity Mates  recruit, train and match-up volunteer Maternity Mates with pregnant women in need of extra support in East London (Tower Hamlets, Newham and Waltham Forest). The volunteers offer practical and emotional support to disadvantaged pregnant women, any time from the 5th month of pregnancy, through childbirth and up until the early weeks of motherhood.  They have plans to expand into other London boroughs, and then a nationwide service. Some Maternity Mates volunteers are as young as 18.

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Maternity Mates have a target of helping 1000 pregnant mums by August 2019 and are very much on track, having helped around 800 so far. Last year they recruited over 100 new volunteers and at least 30% continue each year.

Contact: Jasmin Begum, Programme Manager This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 07960 327 760/020 7377 9640

Being a young person’s health champion

Shropshire Young Health Champions is an innovative county-wide programme in Shropshire run by Shropshire Youth Association that trains any interested Shropshire young Person how to become a health champion and help them deliver a piece of social action with a health theme across hospitals, GP surgeries, communities and schools.
SYA go into schools and invite young people who are interested in health to do a 2-day course to become a young health champion. This includes training on how to prepare a social action campaign. Some of the young people have burning issues they want to highlight. Eg three young people with type 1 diabetes created an education kit for schools to improve the experience of students who live with diabetes and made this. Another group are raising awareness of type 2 diabetes, creating an awareness campaign you tube film (the Diabeatit Shuffle!) for primary school kids; the disabled boy who campaigned for (and got!) a Park Run course suitable for disabled people.

Most of the new young health champions are open to suggestions. So SYA and other organisations offers them ideas which have resulted in things like Shropshire’s XYZ youth group for LGBT+ helping Shropshire council to shape its award-winning relationship sex education (RSE) programme for PHSE in schools, an audit of 2 hospitals in Shropshire, a mental health/self-harm project around peer support. This is being rolled out in more schools including next week in Lacon Childe Secondary School, Cleobury Mortimer.

Contact: Richard Parkes, CEO of Shropshire Youth Association – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 01743 730005

Being a young hospital volunteer

Royal Free Charity, Young Volunteer Programme offers a selection of roles for younger people, whether they want to pursue a career in healthcare, or they want to give back to their local hospital.  They currently have 250 young volunteers split between the Royal Free (150) and Barnet & Chase Farm (100) Hospitals.

There are 4 main roles for young people aged 16-25:

  • Human sat nav – guiding patients to appointments
  • Ward assistant – playing game and activities, chatting with patients, serving tea and coffee
  • Taking round the book trolley and art trolley services (also doing arts & crafts with patients)
  • Beauty therapy service –  nail painting, hand massages, make up, hair

Volunteers who’ve been helping for several months can also be dementia companions

Contact: Bradley De Abreu – Young Volunteer Programme Coordinator (based at Barnet & Chase Farm Hospitals) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 020 8216 4449

Performing surgery in Africa to help those who can’t pee properly 

Graham Watson, a consultant urologist from Eastbourne, volunteers with Medi Tech Trust visiting hospitals in Sri Lanka, the Gambia, Senegal, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe for the express purpose of operating on difficult urinary cases and training medical staff in urological operations so they can continue what he initiates.  Graham has also helped develop a way of making the saline solution that’s vital for surgery, as African patients usually have to provide their own saline or substitute if they need an operation.

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Graham (on the far right) explains how he got involved with volunteering for Medi Tech Trust:
“Ten years ago, I was invited to teach keyhole stone surgery in Sri Lanka. I visited many times during the following five years and have seen large painful open surgery incisions become a thing of the past.  As an unexpected benefit I found that my expertise developed along with theirs, which fired my enthusiasm for training surgeons in Africa.   I have concentrated on keyhole surgery for kidney stones and resections of the prostate.  We now have centres up and running in Senegal, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe with others desperate to join in.  Each year, I spend up to three months in Africa and find the experience demanding but tremendously rewarding.”

Using Morris dancing to entertain disabled people

Ian Peaple from Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire has a rather unusual way of entertaining residents at a Leonard Cheshire care home: Morris dancing combined with the Haka. He also plays music and sings. usually sporting elaborate headgear and a dragon puppet in tow.

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Ian got involved with Leonard Cheshire because, like the founder of the charity, his father was in the RAF:

“I felt a link to Leonard Cheshire and decided to fundraise for then. They had a residential care facility just down the road. I was asked as a trader to contribute to a town fun day with entertainment of some kind. I trained up some fellow shop workers into a Morris side and took to the streets to dance . People wanted to contribute for our efforts and so we deployed my shops collection tin. After a while I was approached by members of the team at Chiltern House and asked to entertain at special events. These were great fun and introduced me to the residents who I became friends with and impressed by their ability to overcome life’s challenges. After many years fundraising I feel very lucky to be a part of such an inspiring and worthwhile charity. The service users and staff have made a big impact on me and enriched my life. Thanks to Leonard Cheshire for friends, fun and a chance to give back to society!”

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