A MAJOR new campaign hopes to recruit dozens of volunteers to work in communities and hospitals across Yorkshire to help ease “unprecedented” pressures on public services.
Leading charity Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) said the challenges facing the UK are “acute” - but that by volunteering, people across the region can help to meet that challenge and get huge benefits to their own wellbeing, isolation, and even boost their employment prospects.
Its new research shows that volunteering just once a week “sparks more joy” than any other activity, and matches the feeling of “runner’s high”.
Commissioned services operations manager for RVS, Oliver Clarke, who works across West and South Yorkshire and Humberside, told The Yorkshire Post there are a huge range of volunteering opportunities across Yorkshire - from helping run a trolley service to patients on a hospital ward, to offering companionship to a lonely older person in their home, to fundraising roles. There are currently around 500 RVS volunteers in Yorkshire, and the charity hopes to boost that number by 10 per cent.
Mr Clarke said: “None of our services could operate without volunteers. Royal Voluntary Service has always been there to assist with the needs of the day, within our hospitals and our communities, and now, getting people, particularly older people, out of isolation and into their communities. We understand the strains and pressures that frontline NHS, for example, is under, and we want to compliment the work they do. There are always gaps that could be filled by voluntary services.”
The charity said wants to highlight the “pivotal part” volunteering can play in everyone’s lives, with its research showing volunteering can boost self-confidence, has a positive impact on mental health and teaches new skills.
Almost four in ten first-timers said their volunteering had made them less lonely. The Yorkshire Post has previously encouraged its readers to volunteer with the RVS through its Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign.
Tayla Falconer, 22, volunteers with the charity’s Doncaster Dementia Family Support Service, and said the experience has been “life changing”.
“Before I started volunteering, I was very timid and shy – now I’m a burst of energy and a much better person for it,” she said. “I work full time, have a business and hobbies, but I’m still able to find the time.
“For young people in particular, volunteering is a great way to give back. We also need to recognise that one day, it could be us who needs the help.”
Director of volunteering for Royal Voluntary Service, Rebecca Kennelly, said: “In the past, the benefits of volunteering have been disproportionately enjoyed by those of higher socioeconomic groups.
“We want to see a cultural shift and for people of all ages and backgrounds to be able to integrate volunteering into their everyday life and benefit from the experience.”
Last year, the charity was re-commissioned by Leeds City Council to run its Healthy Happy Lives projects in Meanwood, Chapel Allerton and Roundhay for the next five years. Part of the project sees exercise classes and social groups operate for older people, and each group is in need of extra help.
“Whether you can offer an hour a week or a little longer, we offer full training to anybody who comes in,” Mr Clarke said. “We’re also about to start an innovate project at the Leeds General Infirmary and St James’s Hospital, introducing mobility volunteers who will work on the hospital wards to help get people moving, get stronger, and stay hydrated.”
At Seacroft Hospital, where the charity runs a long-established shop and cafe, it is in need of people to help serve customers and keep shelves stocked.
Volunteers are also being encouraged to set up their own activities or groups such as lunch or dining clubs with full support and advice from the charity.
“We’re keen to hear from anyone who has identified a specific need for a service and is interested in starting their own group,” Mr Clarke said. “We can provide advice, support and role-specific training.
“Our volunteers often start by committing to an hour or two a week but then increase the time they give. People become inspired to more by seeing the difference they make.”
Anyone wishing to volunteer can visit www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk