Two Men and a Dog

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This month we hear from David, who has recently started volunteering with us:-

I had been volunteering for 4 years with the Dogs Trust at their north London rehoming centre, which involved a few hours at the weekend walking dogs.  Because of changes in the volunteer set up at the Dogs Trust I was not able to continue there and I wanted to find another type of volunteering. I wanted something which was easy to travel to, did not take up too many hours per week, which I could do in the early evenings (as I cannot commit during the day because of my job) and a cause that I felt strongly about. After a little searching I found The Volunteer Link Scheme which seemed to tick all these boxes.

It’s hard to find out about how a charity operates if you’re “on the outside”, and where to volunteer is an important decision when you are giving up free time and you want it to be right. Having said that, the organisation and set up of the Volunteer Link Scheme was reassuring from my first contact.

I went in for an initial chat at their office with Bridget which was professional and friendly and I passed the initial interview! And so on to the next step, the training which consisted of a half day session on a Saturday – I was glad they did a weekend session as otherwise I would have needed to take time off work. My initial thought was that a half day session seemed a little on the long side for training, but actually there is a lot of important and interesting material to cover and so the time went quickly.

Various key topic areas were covered and a consistent focus is the difference between being a friend and a befriender. Understanding the differences, and their implications is vital in order to make a success of the befriender volunteering.  

Around this time the Christmas volunteer meet up took place and I got the chance to meet dozens of other volunteers. There are more of these events planned for 2018.

The final stage is that the Befriending Coordinators carefully consider your profile and that of the clients and make an informed match between the two.

Funnily enough, the gentleman that I visit has a dog which was one of the reasons that made the match a good one for us. I visit him every two weeks. It does take a little while to hit it off, as you would expect. We’re now both well into the swing of our visits and it’s good to see him and his dog. We have our “visit routine” and the visits are enjoyable for both of us.

I’d thoroughly recommend the Volunteer Link Scheme. It’s a great cause and the team is really well organised. I guess it comes as no surprise to any Londoner reading this post that there is an ongoing demand for new volunteers because we have new clients all the time in need of befrienders. So go for it and reach out and get in touch.

 

Volunteering is a Learning Experience

volunteer-stock-photoImage courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here at Volunteer Link we have had quite a bit of interest in volunteering recently and this has meant that we have already held one new volunteers training day, with another planned for the end of February.  When promoting our volunteering I am focusing on how people can benefit personally and it struck me that learning is a great outcome. I recently quoted to a local university volunteering department:-

Prospective volunteers are eligible for our initial one day volunteer training course which means they meet other volunteers and have the opportunity to learn in a supportive, friendly environment. They learn how to listen, build rapport and create positive relationships, as well as softer skills such as record keeping, boundaries and accountability.

In addition to learning from trainers volunteers also learn from each other. We are lucky enough to have very experienced and interesting people coming forward to volunteer and they are making positive contributions to their training groups.

Volunteers also continually learn as they volunteer, including about the person whom they are befriending and their life, their struggles and ups and downs as well as about carrying out their role in an appropriate and professional way. As volunteers discuss with us at the Volunteer Link office issues that have arisen for their clients they discover what solutions may or may not be available.

We learn throughout our lives one way or another and there is nothing like ‘learning by doing’. Everyone who volunteers is getting something out of it one way or another, and I believe that learning about other people’s lives as well as how to carry out a volunteer role effectively can be very beneficial.