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Lottery Funding Means Project Can Continue To Help People Take Up And Sustain Volunteering Roles

Voluntary Action South West Surrey has been awarded a substantial grant to continue its work helping people who would otherwise face challenges in taking up volunteering and sustaining volunteering roles.

The £361,560 sum has been awarded by the Big Lottery Fund and will be spent over a five-year period. It will fund two staff members who will work closely with clients, and will cover all costs associated with its Welcome to Volunteering project.

The project primarily helps people who might find it difficult to start volunteering because of mental ill-health, but also supports those who lack confidence, have learning or physical disabilities, ex-offenders, those who have been out of work for long periods, people who don’t have English as a first language, and people in temporary accommodation.

Voluntary Action South West Surrey’s chief officer, Carol Dunnett.

The chief officer at Voluntary Action South West Surrey (VASWS), Carol Dunnett, said: “This grant means we can continue with a project that is so beneficial. We help our clients take up and secure volunteer roles. It is known that volunteering has many health benefits – people learn new skills, they make friends, they keep active, their confidence grows and volunteering can help people get into paid work.

“Those who benefit most often are those who find it hard to offer their time volunteering, as they may lack confidence or find the process daunting.

“We give close support and encouragement to help people through the steps towards a volunteering role, while at the same time support organisations who welcome volunteer help.

“People who are assisted through our Welcome to Volunteering programme take on a wide range of roles with many organisations. This includes admin work, helping in charity shops, outdoor work with projects like the Swingbridge Community Boats and with Age UK Surrey. Our own Joining In! project that supports community involvement has benefited with help from Welcome to Volunteering volunteers who have taken photos for publicity purposes.” 

(Some of these photo have also been published in stories on The Guildford Dragon NEWS.)

Some of the staff at Voluntary Action South West Surrey’s office in Castle Street, Guildford. From left: Lorraine Yates, Kerry Brown, Caroline Keith and Denise Graves.

Welcome to Volunteering has been running for four years and VASWS previously received funding from Waverley Borough Council and the Welcome Project. In that time it has helped over 600 clients.  The project works closely with other providers of support both statutory and voluntary including the Community Mental Health Teams, Adult Social Care, Oakleaf Enterprise and Catalyst.

Carol added: “We are thrilled to be able to continue to offer this free service that has really helped to change people’s lives for the better. We thank the Big Lottery Fund for this grant and also all those who buy tickets for the National Lottery.”

Welcome to Volunteering volunteers with Voluntary Action South West Surrey staff and some of its own volunteers pictured on the day they went apple picking at and for Birtley House care home in Bramley.

In its evaluation for Welcome to Volunteering, VASWS has recorded details of what clients have said about the project and how they have benefitted. Some of these include: “After discussing what was available I realised I needed more confidence, my self-esteem was shattered. I attended a three-part volunteering skills course and realised after this I was ready to challenge myself.”

“I had been a teacher all my working life but after my diagnosis of depression I knew I needed to change careers. I have done that now through the patience, support and understanding of the Welcome to Volunteering project.

“I needed to get away from people and so they suggested some volunteering with a canal restoration group. It has helped me to feel useful whilst I figure myself out. I now hope to work again.”

“I was bought up in another country and as an older woman was struggling to find work. My GP referred me to the project as I wouldn’t leave my flat. Although we have not found a suitable role yet, I know that it is the only thing that is making me leave my flat.”

For more details of the Welcome to Volunteering project and how it may help you or someone you know, contact co-coordinator Lorraine Yates on 07775 556772.

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