As Volunteer’s Week 2020 comes to close, it’s an opportunity to reflect on what our amazing volunteers do and how lockdown, has made things very different.
We tend to celebrate with our volunteers at the beginning of December. The end of the year gives us an opportunity, as a charity, to look back on the past 12 months. It gives us an opportunity to share successes and to get volunteers to tell us what they think, what they need, what we could do better doing at an informal and fun evening. It gives volunteers an opportunity to get to know each other and share their own stories.
Previously during Volunteers’ Week we have been working the boats. Racing on the South Coast at one of our fundraising events or sailing with adult and youth groups onboard in different parts of the UK. This year is very different though. We’ve only had a couple of volunteers (maximum) onboard the boats at any one time keeping the maintenance ticking over. The boats lay still in our home port of Penarth Marina.
Our volunteers donate thousands of hours of their time (collectively) each year. Many help crew the boats, while working with young people and adults – a job that isn’t always all that easy when you throw in a mixture of weather and waves! Some help shore-side and lend a hand on our ship-shape days; ensuring the boats are ready to go at a moment’s notice.
However, at a time when no sailing or shore-side activities are taking place we have found our volunteers have undertaken their own fundraising to help support Challenge Wales, or have sponsored others. That has been amazing and over a weekend (ish) over £1,000 was raised (whoopee and virtual high five!). Volunteers have been reaching out on email, phone and Facebook group to give us a few ideas to develop, to offer help and support, to keep in touch and say hello.
Like many charities, who at this time are not even in a position to earn any income and aren’t eligible for any special relief packages from the Chancellor, we will be relying on our amazing volunteers to help us to continue delivering our life-changing activities when it is safe for us to start operating again. That moment can’t come soon enough.
Challenge Wales will be looking to embrace the new normal and our volunteers will continue to be at the heart of what we do and who we are.
Without our volunteers, we wouldn’t have been awarded the top international award last year for our innovative and inspiring work: “Sail Training Organisation of the Year“. We wouldn’t have inspired so many young people to turn their lives around, focus on new or different things. We wouldn’t have made our activities as accessible as they are and provide the opportunity for those who thought the opportunity was out of their reach.
Quite often policymakers don’t’ often understand or truly recognise the role of volunteers and how valuable a part they play in society. Although the pandemic has shown how vital volunteers are in the cohesion of communities. Opinion-formers and funders often overlook the expense to effectively support volunteers in what is a highly regulated environment. Challenge Wales has been lucky in the past that the Big Lottery Community Fund has helped us to support our volunteers but with this funding ended, we need to ensure other funders are aware of this and how valuable our volunteers are, who can’t be taken for granted.
So Happy Volunteer’s Week 2020, we anticipate next year’s event to be truly celebratory as our Volunteers come back to volunteering with us. We miss seeing our volunteers and look forward to welcoming our volunteers, and new ones, back onboard….whenever that will be!