Happy Volunteers’ Week 2020!
Volunteers’ Week 2020 will not be like any we have experienced before. While the world has felt very strange over the past few months, there is no doubt that volunteering is alive and well. So many individual acts of kindness to friends and neighbours, as well as more organised volunteering efforts through community groups, churches and sports clubs have really made a big difference to many people.
So what have we learned about volunteering through this crisis? Firstly across the world there has been an outpouring of good will and thousands of people have come forward to volunteer. In Northern Ireland this has also been the case. Organisations of all sizes have been overwhelmed with offers of support. The challenges are around co-ordination and helping people to be able to find a meaningful opportunity – this has been the case across the UK and the Republic of Ireland with many more people signing up than the opportunities which are available. Volunteer Now is also working through these challenges and we are still working to offer opportunities to the many thousands of people who have signed up with us in the past months. This will take some time as many organisations that usually involve large numbers of volunteers have furloughed staff and put their volunteering programmes on hold and local organisations working on the Covid response have also had substantial numbers of people coming forward to help.
The next question we all need to wrestle with is what will volunteering look like in this new world? How can we run volunteering programmes 2 metres apart? For all organisations this will pose serious challenges and it will take time to work through the issues and to get programmes up and running again. However, volunteering to help each other has always been part of the human experience and I have no doubt that we will build back better. This is a chance to reshape how things are done and to seek to improve on what we had before. We also need to find ways to involve the new people who have come forward, often for the first time, to offer help. This is an opportunity to introduce a whole new generation of people to volunteering.
So, as we are thankful in Volunteers’ Week to the many volunteers who keep our community moving, we need to reflect on how we can build back better and get ready for the challenges ahead. Happy Volunteers’ Week!