One of the hot topics at the moment is The Big Society, it is widely associated with volunteering and opinion is divided about the ethics of volunteering and concerns that paid jobs will be replaced with volunteers. We want to share with you some positive aspects of volunteering and some of the hidden benefits.
For the last year we have run a Volunteer Programme in partnership with University Hospital Birmingham, linking volunteers with Heart Patients.
The Community Volunteers in Rehabilitation programme or ‘Strictly not Rehab’ as it became affectionately known had obvious benefits to the patients in increasing activity with a view to reducing risk of further heart problems.
We recruited 30 volunteers, of those 25 were unemployed many of these haven’t worked for over 3 years. Today, 14 of these are in paid work.
All 30 got a Level 1 or 2 qualification. Indeed, 21 of the 30 reported feeling their confidence had improved since taking part in volunteering and 17 said they felt more employable as a result of volunteering.
A surprising benefit is that 21 of the volunteers have said they have improved their own lifestyle to a more healthy one since joining the programme, because of learning more about heart health.
What did they do?
Volunteers were matched with a patient recovering from a heart attack. They learnt about healthy hearts, lifestyle, wellbeing and rehabilitation and put this knowledge to good use by supporting patients through their rehab programmes. A big part of this was informal dance sessions in a bid to get them more active and to help them feel less isolated by making friends and building peer support networks of people who had been through a similar thing.
This programme showed us that in the current climate volunteering provides an opportunity to get recognised qualifications, improve confidence and get jobs. All this, while helping to improve the lives of people in local communities.
Gateway is enhancing its services through the use of volunteers and providing opportunities for people at the same time – we are always recruiting volunteers, in particular around befriending, social inclusion and community links – there are opportunities throughout Birmingham.