To mark International Volunteering Day on December 5 Lee Bailey, Riverside’s National Volunteering Manager for Riverside Care and Support, explains why helping others is so important and the volunteering schemes we have in place thanks to volunteers.
I joined Riverside in August, and have worked in the housing and volunteer sectors for 20 years.
Since starting my role, I’ve been amazed to see how Riverside Care and Support have embraced the culture of volunteering and have incorporated it into their way of working.
A lot of companies I’ve worked with in the past have seen volunteering as “fluffy stuff”, something that would be nice to do once they’ve finished doing their day job. Little thought goes into creating volunteer activities which often means that they’re a bit last-minute, unorganised with not much to show for the time put in.
This is not the case with Riverside. Volunteering is central to what we do, it’s part of our Corporate Plan and is a valuable contributor in helping us meet our vision of “Transforming Lives and Revitalising Neighbourhoods”.
We have dedicated volunteering teams across the country who go above and beyond to work with local teams and the customers they support to create meaningful volunteer opportunities with positive outcomes for all involved. Our volunteers are involved in a huge range of activities including helping out in offices, organising informal get-togethers, leading healthy eating sessions, befriending, helping customers get online and much, much more.
We also have our fantastic peer mentoring scheme so that our customers, who may find themselves going through a difficult time, can receive advice, support and guidance from people who have been through the same thing. For the customer, they have the opportunity to talk openly and build a trusting, supportive relationship with someone on their level. For the peer mentor, they are able to turn what are often the most negative experiences in their lives into something positive for someone else.
We have had huge successes with peer mentoring across the country particularly with the Gate Buddies scheme in Manchester which helps those about to leave prison reintegrate into society, and with the Street Buddies schemes which proactively supports homeless people into supported accommodation. This amazing work was recognised when the Street Buddies scheme in Westminster won the Supporting and Inspiring accolade at the Team London Awards 2017.
The diversity of experience and skills that volunteers bring is a massive positive for Riverside and helps us extend and enrich the services that we provide to our customers. It’s a special type of person who freely donates their time for the benefit of someone they may have never met, and we value each and every one of our amazing volunteers.
Looking forward, we are keen to build on the great work that has already taken place and to continue to increase the number of volunteers we work with across the country.
Currently, we’re working with colleagues from each of our regions to improve the processes that we’re using to attract new volunteers, and look at how we support them once they’re signed up.
We’re also focussing on creating new, simple guides which we’ll share with local teams across the country. This will give them the skills they’ll need to create new opportunities for volunteers and provide them with support to make sure they get the most out the time they spend with us.
These are exciting times and I’m proud to work for a company that understands and embraces volunteering and the positive influence that it brings. I’m looking forward to continuing improve our volunteering offer and I’m confident that even greater things are yet to come!
If you are interested in volunteering with Riverside, please contact our Customer Services Centre on 0345 111 0000.