Inspiring Business by Sharing Success

National Volunteers Week; an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK – including thousands here in Derby and Derbyshire – through volunteering.

National Volunteers Week; an annual celebration of the contribution millions of people make across the UK – including thousands here in Derby and Derbyshire – through volunteering.

We speak to volunteers, charities and organisations who tell us why they volunteer and just what a difference it can make to people’s lives.

It goes without saying that volunteers played a key role when the UK was locked down due to the coronavirus pandemic. From vaccination centre marshals to members of the community who ensured that neighbours had essentials such as bread, milk and medicine, we’re a nation with a big heart.

And that is evident right here in Derby and Derbyshire, too. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), of the 14 million people in England who regularly volunteer their time a large proportion live in the city or county.

E4E – a public private-sector partnership founded by Derby City Council in 2014 – aims to connect young people and secondary schools in the city with employers. They offer CV writing workshops, mentoring and mock interviews and, this year, E4E will have reached 50,000 youngsters in Derby including those with additional needs.

They do, though, rely heavily on volunteers and currently have more than 600 on their register, representing global companies such as Toyota, Alstom and Rolls-Royce to organisations including the University of Derby, Cosy Direct, Bowmer & Kirkland and SMEs like Project D, Colleague Box and Penguin PR.

Arshad Iqbal is the manager of E4E Derby. He said:

“E4E aims to raise the self-belief, motivation and aspirations of young people living in our city. We open their eyes to a wide range of career opportunities and help them to unlock potential.

“National research points to the fact that employer contact at school is vital for students’ personal and academic growth, career choice and future achievement.

“The mission is to help effect improvements in Social Mobility, raise aspirations, bridge the gap in educational attainment.

“Volunteers are our lifeblood and without them, it wouldn’t be possible to run E4Eand support the thousands of students we help develop every year. And, particularly as life gets back to some kind of ‘normality’ after two years of covid restrictions, sessions such as mock interviews have been even more important than before in helping to develop the communication skills of these young people.

“For mock interview sessions, which are held at school, we prepare questions for volunteers to ask. But, what we have found recently, is that, quite often, the conversation is steered more towards the wellbeing of the pupil. These young people have had little to do with anyone other than their immediate family and teachers at school, and have needed help and reassurance when talking to our volunteers, who are complete strangers to them.”

It's not just the young people, though, who have gained great value from E4E.

“We have had volunteers, too, who have found the sessions we run quite cathartic,” added Arshad, “and teachers appreciate seeing a friendly face in school.

“Employers are committed to wanting to develop their future workforce pipeline, to ‘give back’, and many volunteers just love doing the E4E activities and the satisfying connection they have with school pupils.

“We had great feedback at our awards event in December, which was a celebration of our incredible volunteers, schools and young people – we recognised the resilience of three incredibly brave youngsters, Tilly, Jack and Tejal, who epitomised everything that E4E is about.

“With a growing demand for employers to support young people in school, we are continually seeking more volunteers to help. Through just one half-a-day per year, volunteers can make a huge difference.”

Also being recognised for her contribution at the E4E Awards was volunteer Claire Hollinshurst, of chemicals company Lubrizol, whose UK headquarters is in Hazelwood near Belper.

Volunteering is strongly encouraged amongst employees and, as well as Claire, many members of staff give up their time to help others through a variety of initiatives, from supporting students interested in a science career to volunteering to help maintain the Heritage Way; a 55-mile walk through the Derbyshire countryside.

One employee who has fully embraced the importance of giving her time up to help others is student Laura Barrie, from Lubrizol’s creative services department. Not only does Laura volunteer through the innovative app ‘Be My Eyes’ which helps blind and partially sighted people complete everyday tasks, she also spends 20 minutes a week offering a listening ear to a carer.

Laura explained how she became involved:

“I initially saw this opportunity on a work email that details possible volunteering you can get involved in. I then reached out to Claire Hollingshurst, our quality systems manager, who put me in touch with Rachel Cashmore at Derbyshire Carers Association. I filled in an application form, which allowed Rachel to understand who I am and my interests, and then had a call with Rachel to have some training. At the end of the call we discussed possible carers I could speak to, based off my interests in the application form, and then arranged a suitable time to begin the calls.

“Each call is around 20 minutes and I currently only speak to one carer. It has been two in the past but circumstances changed. These 20-minute conversations can be focused on the caring role, for example: how they are coping, any updates, how the person they care for is, or about their lives. It could be that we talk about their job, any holidays they’ve had, or their family.

“I leave the conversation completely up to the person I’m talking to as it is their 20 minutes to discuss whatever they’d like. I let them lead it. It’s a great service as you are being a listening ear and offering friendly conversation to someone who may not have experienced that in some time, or just needs a break.

“They can open up to you and be honest about their feelings which can be a nice relief. Caring for someone can be so hard and you have to put your life on hold at times so if I can help bring some normality and friendly conversation once a week, then why wouldn’t I?!”

Community has always been important to Adam and Natalie Bamford, founders of personalised gift company Colleague Box, since they started the business two years ago.

Adam has, in the past volunteered for E4E while wife Natalie played a key role in organising a fundraising event at Bustler which raised more than £2,000 for the DEC’s Ukraine Appeal

Natalie, who is also a trustee at Stepping Stones – a charity that helps families living in Normanton, Derwent and Mackworth – said:

“Community is so important to us and we like to help out as much as we can.

“We’ve given profits from some of our boxes to charities such as Safe & Sound and Children First in the past and, more recently, I became involved in the Great Girls Hub, which is run by Derby County Community Trust and Sport England. The aim is to encourage girls between the ages of 11 and 16 to talk openly to other females and to take care of their physical wellbeing, with fun activities such as boxing.

“As a mum to two daughters, I feel that it’s important to have initiatives such as the Great Girls Hub here in Derby, to offer a ‘safe’ space for girls to come and have fun without any judgement.”

Adam and Natalie, together with daughter Lola, also took part in the YMCA’s Sleep Easy at Derbyshire County Cricket Club earlier this year.

A national YMCA initiative, businesses in the city are encouraged to spend the night sleeping outdoors and raise as much money as possible for the charity.

As well as Colleague Box, Penguin PR – who have offices in Derby and Chesterfield – slept out under the stars for the charity. And, later this month, they will be chopping, boiling and baking alongside Derby accountants Vibrant Accountancy, at the YMCA’s monthly community meal.

It is the second time that Penguin PR have taken part in the community meal.

Sarah Newton, director of Penguin PR, said:

“We’d recommend the experience to other businesses as it’s great for team bonding and personal development, while it also puts something back into the community.”

Charities such as YMCA, Derby County Community Trust and Children’s First were hit hard by the pandemic. Treetops Hospice, the leading end-of-life care charity based in Risley, felt the pinch, too but, thankfully, they’re now starting to bounce back.

They have more than 450 volunteers who contribute their time and skills across all areas of the hospice, with a large number helping in Treetops charity shops across the county, in the Treetops Lottery team and with fundraising.

Clinical volunteers help support patients in the Wellbeing, Support and Information, Befriending and Counselling Services, whilst volunteers also help with the hospice reception, admin, catering and gardening, and as charity trustees.

Vicki Smith helps out at Treetops’ charity shops, where she’s always happy to meet new people.

“I chose to volunteer at Treetops as it is a local charity and quite a few members of my family have benefitted from their fantastic care,” she said, “I enjoy meeting new people and helping a good cause at the same time.

“At the charity shop, I do anything that is required – accept donations, steam clothes, help customers and serve on the till. I meet people I don’t know, and we have fun! I would advise anyone to volunteer if they can; not only are you doing something worthwhile, you also get a lot of personal satisfaction.”

Donald Laing also volunteers for Treetops Hospice. He said:

“I volunteer once a week at the shop and find it very rewarding. I’m helping the hospice and putting back into the community.

“I’d recommend volunteering – it’s helped me overcome my shyness.”

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