22 Jun HELPING YOUR COMMUNITY
By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
During the pandemic, volunteering came to the fore in a way that has never been seen before.
Neighbours stepped up to help neighbours, friends supported friends and relatives were there for each other. Thousands of others delivered acts of kindness, small and large for people they had never met before.
At the risk of sounding trite, we were all in it together and we all came through it together. Put simply, we could not have come through the ordeal so successfully without each other.
The Torbay Community Helpline alone recruited more than 1,700 people who stepped up to do whatever was needed and around 70 neighbourhood groups were formed to check on people living close by.
And that was just through the Helpline. There were thousands more people that were out shopping, collecting prescriptions or simply checking in on those over the garden fence.
None wanted or expected thanks, but all knew their kind deeds and actions made a difference. An unprecedented response to unprecedented times.
But what of volunteering now? How do we harness that spirit, the goodwill, because it really should not simply end there. The strength of a motivated community is a powerful force to be reckoned with.
We have no idea what the Winter will bring regarding COVID, but we must at least prepare ourselves for more of the same if there is a resurgence. With the help of vaccines, we might well be able to cope without lockdowns, but there are, even with low levels of virus circulating, those that will prove to self-isolate.
Should it really take something on the scale of COVID to bring out the best in us; for us to pause in our busy lives to ask after others or to stop long enough to offer assistance where it is needed?
How do we maintain the momentum, make volunteering cool, and embed it into our daily lives? That is a challenge the voluntary and charitable organisations across the Bay are currently trying to get to grips with.
In the US, volunteering is almost expected of employees in some professions and a CV without evidence of it would not get very far in the interview process. Would that it were so here. Or maybe it should be?
Here at the Torbay Community Development Trust, we recently introduced the equivalent of corporate social responsibility days, where the team is encouraged to take paid days working for other good causes.
It isn’t for everyone, but if the saying a change is as good a rest has any resonance, then a change working for someone else and helping to make a difference with thanks thrown in will chime loudly with you.
It can have all sorts of other far-reaching benefits, not least through improving your mental wellbeing by supporting a cause that you are passionate about – and that can cover anything and everything.
It also gives you the chance to meet new people and in a cause that is close to our hearts at TCDT, volunteering has been proved to help overcome loneliness and if you are worried about doing it by yourself, persuade a friend to get involved in too.
Giving back and being involved in your local community is also a foundation principle in ways to wellbeing. Not only does it, as already mentioned, build social connections, but people who are proactively kind and help others, report being happier.
Or put another way, feeling like you are making a difference, being useful and potentially feeling needed by others actually increases your sense of purpose and self-esteem. Win, win.
You can also push yourself harder, and get out of your comfort zone by volunteering in areas that push you harder and have a great deal of fun in the process.
Schools and universities are joining the revolution and if we can keep the momentum going, it will become the norm for everyone. Imagine a world where each and everyone of us endeavours to give something back.
Imagine what we could achieve, not just for ourselves, but for our friends, our neighbours, and our communities. We can remain stronger together, Jump on board today and together can all make that difference.
You don’t have to look far to find an opportunity, but if you want some ideas, call the helpline on 01803 446022.