Volunteers Week: Local organisations hoping for volunteers return

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Peterborough Environment City Trust is one of the organisations hoping to begin volunteer recruitment again soon (Photo: Adobe Stock)

When the government appealed for volunteers to help the NHS at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, they were overwhelmed with over 500,000 applications. As people found themselves working from home - or furloughed - many began reaching out to the community to provide assistance.

Recent news revealed that 21pc of people in the East of England are volunteering during the COVID-19 crisis.

Some groups in the city that rely on volunteers have seen a rise in willing helpers, but had to stop accepting applications due to the manner of their work.

We asked a few groups across Peterborough what the outbreak has meant for their volunteer services and how they plan to bring them back.

Peterborough Council for Voluntary Services (PCVS) has been recruiting volunteers to help assist vulnerable members of our community during this time, despite the uncertainty surrounding being able to re-open the offices.

Sarah Woodbine, volunteer co-ordinator, said: "Moving from lockdown to some sort of normal we hope that people who have volunteered or wanted to engage in volunteering will continue to do so. I think the high profile of campaigns has got more people thinking about it which is really encouraging."

Lots of the community organisations that PCVS works with are still active and recruiting volunteers, and Sarah looks forward to opening the PCVS service so that people who have been inspired to formally volunteer can make an appointment to find out where they'd be best suited.

She said: "I have been working with our member organisations not just on volunteering and have knowledge of different groups in different areas tackling different tasks. I can tailor suggestions of groups to peoples interests, I enjoy making suggestions and linking up potential volunteers, helping people feel more connected. It’s been hard during this time but I hope when we can have some sort of normal that more people access our services and get involved.

Citizens Advice Peterborough plan on reopening their volunteer recruitment process in the next week or so.

In an email to Peterborough Matters, Helen Jones, volunteer department manager, said: "We expect demand for our service to increase over the summer so it will be useful to have more volunteers available to expand our capacity. 

"Potential volunteers will be contacted via telephone for an informal chat about volunteering with us, the roles on offer and how they can get involved. Induction sessions and initial training will be completed remotely, via video link and online via our training platform."

Citizens Advice Peterborough has applied for funding from local charitable trusts and companies to help with the purchase of IT equipment for volunteers to use from home, meaning that even when the offices are reopened, opportunities will be available for those who want to help from home.

Anyone interested in volunteering with Citizens Advice Peterborough should visit the website for further information and register their interest using the online form.

The Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) seeks volunteers for a range of activities, including litter picking, helping with events, tree planting, or even a voluntary office role.

Throughout the pandemic, however, face-to-face outreach work has been put on hold to ensure the safety of the team, volunteers and local communities - meaning that opportunities have been limited to join PECT in their mission.

In regard to the future, interim chief executive officer Stuart Dawks said: "After lockdown has eased we will need volunteer support more than ever to help build resilience in our communities and ensure that the ‘normal’ we’re working towards is one where green spaces are valued and that together we’re building a better future. As a society, our normal systems, values and behaviours have been unexpectedly disrupted by the pandemic. This is the time to make a change - we hope people will join with us in making a difference."

He urged interested parties to sign up to the PECT newsletter to hear about volunteer opportunities as soon as they become available.

Peterborough Association for the Blind (PAB) is the only local charity supporting people in the Peterborough area with serious sight loss, providing activities, assistance and sign-posting to other organisations that members may find useful.

Volunteers are not being taken on at present due to the training session that must be conducted with all new recruits - it's three hours long and face-to-face and therefore doesn't sit with the current guidance. As volunteers would be working with members who have serious sight issues, this training session is vital before anyone can begin work.

Sylvia Wheeler, chair of PAB, said the organisation would "very much like to start recruiting again" because volunteers are so valuable for PAB. Enquiries are welcomed, but the volunteering process will begin at a later date, when more information is known about returning to normal service.