Here at Options we recognise the importance of volunteering, not only for us an organisation but for each individual involved. Volunteers play a crucial part in our mission of supporting, empowering and enabling people to live their lives to the full. They bring experiences, skills, passion, care and ideas to their role. It’s a great opportunity for personal development, as well as contributing to the amazing outcomes for people we support. Volunteers really add value to our charity.
Unfortunately, support providers such as ourselves are under increasing pressures following decreasing funding cuts within the social care sector. As a result, we rely on the generosity and support of volunteers who can offer their time.
For Volunteers’ Week 2019, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the impact volunteers have had at Options.
Development Manager Jenny said:
“I absolutely believe volunteers are so important to organisations such as Options. They ensure people who have been assessed by social services have access to more support. Samo – who we support on Outreach – has received additional support from a volunteer for several years now, she supports him twice a week and they have a great relationship. We also support Sandy who only received 4 hours of support commissioned by social services and through us adding a volunteer to her support team, it gave her an extra 16 hours a week to use in any way she wanted! As a result, she has gained so much confidence and created some friendships too.”
Team Leader Layken commented:
“I think volunteers are important for people we support for many reasons! For some people who do not have a lot of support hours awarded to them, volunteers can be crucial for these individuals to have a social life, or even just someone to spend time with on a 1:1 basis to conquer loneliness.
Volunteers are such a great help as it means support can be more diverse as we have an extra person there helping to support. Volunteers often bring insight into new experiences and activities that people we support can attend, broadening inclusive horizons for them.
I’ve had a number of experiences with volunteers from my time at Options, both as Support Worker and Team Leader. We currently have a volunteer on the support team I lead called Janice and we are so thankful for her. She supports the guys to activities on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and through having great values she is just as good as the rest of the team, making a real difference by bringing fun to the guys’ lives! Janice has a daughter who has cerebral palsy so she can relate to the guys a lot, and her motherly nature is brilliant. Through her volunteering Janice hopes to maybe one day get into paid support work when she feels it’s best for her.
For me volunteers bring diversity, opportunities, love and experience to our company.”
Office Manager Angela shared:
“I believe volunteers are important in every organisation and every aspect of life. Volunteering allows people to give something back to their communities and helps us all feel part of a greater whole. For Options volunteering has an added dimension, we have volunteers from people outside of Options and volunteers who are supported by Options. The volunteers from outside of Options gain knowledge and insight into the lives, struggles and opportunities for people with a learning disability and I would hope that they leave Options as advocates for inclusion. For people we support, volunteering can give a sense of personal accomplishment and can improve confidence.
From Options’ perspective, each person who volunteers with us brings their own unique skills and attributes to the role. So not only do the volunteers benefit, but we do too. Not only do they learn, but we do too. Volunteers can fill a gap which allows us to do bigger and better things than we have the time or financial resources to do alone.
Since being at Options I have worked with several volunteers, both from outside the organisation and people we support. Perhaps the experience I would like to highlight the most is the work done by the women on the Tea Party Committee last year. It was great to see each one of them use their specific strengths to make the event a success. It was also great to see some of them learn more about themselves in the process.
Krista had some great ideas about showing off the theme of the Tea Party (100 years of women having the vote) and really got stuck into the crafting part of things. Laura was always happy to pitch in with ideas and had a great natural way of making sure everyone was included and everyone’s ideas were heard. Gabby particularly helped out with delivering leaflets to all the businesses around Options’ office to invite people along to the Tea Party – lots of people from local businesses did pop in on the day which was lovely to see. Anita’s leadership skills were evident in the group – she kept us on track and made sure we got things done. She also learnt a bit more about herself in the process – what she was comfortable doing and what she wasn’t. Irene is always the quiet background helper in any events we do. She’s reliable and loves to help out. Her strength on the committee was really on the day of the Tea Party where she worked tirelessly doing any tasks she could. It was a real delight to work with all of them and I am happy to be doing so again this year. Another added bonus has been that, having seen the group get involved last year, some more people have felt emboldened to get involved this year as well – so the confidence of this little group has sparked confidence in other people to think they might be able to do this too – a great result all round!”
Helen, one of our fabulous Team Leaders, responded:
“I think volunteers are great for people we support, they’re really good for supporting people to do activities, socialising and just general day to day. I also think they are great for us as a charity as over the years we’ve had some fantastic volunteers who have come with great ideas to share, and help us to develop!
There was a volunteer on Emma’s support team who used to come every week, supporting her to go swimming. This was absolutely great for Emma because she loves water and swimming!
My overall view is that volunteers who are a great match for people we support and our values as an organisation, then it’s just a perfect combination.”
We really are so thankful for all our volunteers who have helped to shape Options across our 25 years and have made great impacts on the lives of people we support. We couldn’t have done this without you!