Volunteer Centre Kensington & Chelsea - A day in the life during COVID-19
A day in the life at the Volunteer Centre, Kensington & Chelsea
The Volunteer Centre Kensington & Chelsea (VCKC) has been at the forefront of the community response to the pandemic in K&C, working alongside our partners in the voluntary sector, the NHS and the Council; as well as local people in every part of the borough to tackle food insecurity, isolation, anxiety and depression.
While our volunteer programme is helping more people than ever to donate their time to help others, our specialist services are helping our clients cope with the challenges they faced before COVID-19, alongside the new ones created by the virus and the public health response to it.
New ways of doing things
Although some of our work has been put on hold, we’ve managed to find other ways to deliver our services; like many organisations supporting people’s mental health, our teams now call clients on the phone or via Zoom to check in and work through the issues they are experiencing. For some people this might be a quick chat every couple of days, for others a more substantial conversation a couple of times each day.
Community and Maternity Champions would normally be out and about on and around the Lancaster West and Silchester estates, supported by our professional team, but for the moment a lot of that energy and positivity has had to move online. We’ve found ways to run our parent and baby and yoga classes online, sent materials out so people can join in at home via Zoom (we’re working on a new origami offer!), and kept in touch to make sure everyone is coping (and to offer immediate support if they’re not).
Of course we’ve also had to look at where our staff are best placed to support and that has meant our outreach worker being available to help in the emergency food effort.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays we normally offer appointments for people who face barriers to volunteering so that they can sit down with an advisor who can help match their goals, skills and time to the right opportunity. They might have concerns about stigma and prejudice in the workplace, learning disabilities, or experiences of education that have held them back in life, a criminal record, or a lack of digital confidence. The Volunteer Centre would normally be a welcoming place to visit in person; even though we can’t offer that face-to-face contact at the moment we’re still a friendly voice on the other end of the phone!
Proud of our partners
Our community partners have done a brilliant job under the circumstances. Some have expanded what they offer to respond to new demand during the pandemic, such as doing shopping for vulnerable people who are isolating. Others have created completely new services (befriending online, for example), both offering new opportunities to volunteers. In some cases we’ve been asked to provide extra help, perhaps where a partner is trying to cope with a lot more volunteers than previously, or has employed a dedicated volunteer manager for the first time. Our colleagues in the NHS locally are also creating hundreds of new voluntary roles so for those comfortable online and looking for an opportunity to volunteer now is a good time!
We don’t think the future is going to look like the past, and we’re speaking to our clients and our partners about what it might look like. We get to know each person we work with really well, to understand where they are coming from and where they want to get to, and to design a plan for their recovery and wellbeing together, focusing on building that crucial sense of self-worth through regular achievement. For some their goals and the route to achieving them will be clear, but for most it will be more complex, and for a few they will try a large number of different activities, volunteering placements, workshops – interspersed with periods of being so unwell that they can’t engage regularly at all – before they have the good mental health that we’re all looking for.
It’s a privilege to see how people progress with the right opportunities.
Once forged, our relationships with our clients are something they can rely on when times are tough, as they are for many now – they know where we are and they pick up the phone to get help if they stumble, or just to share the good news about their most recent success. As always, we adapt to their needs and find flexible ways to provide support.
If you’re one of those people used to living a big chunk of their lives online, and if you have a consistent amount of time to give to others, then you can volunteer through us just as easily now as you could a couple of months ago. While a number of our voluntary sector partners have had to suspend some of their work, others have been able to move online and carry on their services and some are more in need of extra volunteers than ever before.
For more information visit www.voluntarywork.org.uk