You can help out around Torbay in so many different ways

THINK of the COVID crisis, and it is difficult to conjure up anything positive, but there were some good changes in our habits that have stuck and volunteering is one of them.

We are seeing something of a renaissance in volunteering driven by the number of people who came forward during the lockdowns to help their neighbours, friends and even strangers.

So many people were prepared to potentially put themselves at risk to support others and they discovered it was something that they enjoyed and missed as it came to an end.

For the hundreds if not thousands of charities and voluntary organisations in the Bay, it has proven to be the one positive in an otherwise desperate and devastating couple of years.

More than 1,700 approached us via the Torbay Community Helpline with offers of help, be that shopping, picking up prescriptions, walking other people’s dogs or simply picking up the phone to talk to people who otherwise might not speak to anyone for weeks at a time.

They discovered that putting the effort in was instantly rewarding and they enjoyed the appreciation and gratitude they received. More than anything, they realised that they were appreciated.

They worked right through the crisis and roles associated with the Helpline continued to develop. Some volunteers began staffing the Helpline and when we appealed for help marshalling the vaccine rollout at the Riviera Centre and Brixham Rugby Club the floodgates were breached again.

To be honest, so many people came forward – not just to us but to other organisations and statutory bodies such as the NHS that we struggled to find roles for everyone.

But that is no longer the case. We are now working hard to combine all the available opportunities under one umbrella, a sort of one-stop shop where openings can be advertised and volunteers can peruse what is on offer.

We used Volunteers’ Week to roll out a new landing page www.volunteertorbay.com which contains a world of opportunities and signposts to everything that is available via the TorbayTogether platform where you can sign up and stay in touch.

Volunteering takes many forms and need not be arduous, on the contrary, it can often be fun. A couple of weeks ago, volunteer stewards at the airshow had some of the best views for the duration, and it is worth noting that rather than taking up his VIP pass, one of those volunteer stewards was the council’s new leader, Dave Thomas.

Volunteering appeals to all ages, take Student Ollie Brown who has his sights set on the stage and is helping others achieve the same.

The 19-year-old from Broadsands starts a degree course at Bath Spa University later this year, which he hopes will help catapult him into a career in musical theatre as an actor and singer.

But before he leaves, he is coaching others through Doorsteps Arts in Paignton and recently helped groups of youngsters deliver three sell-out shows of Matilda at the Palace Theatre in Paignton.

“We have so much fun. It is all about the enjoyment and drama is all about the enjoyment;” said Ollie. “It is good to be able to give something back.” he added.

It may or may not be relevant to Ollie, but young people who volunteer in Torbay have gone on to find permanent employment, demonstrating that the skills learnt when volunteering are really valued by employers. Volunteering also looks great on applications for further and higher education.

We want to make volunteering a part of everyone’s lives and celebrate its importance across all sectors, more than anything we want the volunteers’ effort to be appreciated and attract the thanks it deserves.

Volunteering is open to everyone, with individuals deciding how much time they can give, it can be as little as 30 minutes a week that can really make all the difference. Find your passion and help others by volunteering. Read more at www.volunteertorbay.com and follow the links through to a world of opportunities at www.devonconnect.org/torbay and click on the “volunteer” button.

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