Celebrating the resilience and flexibility of TimeBank volunteers

Phil Pyatt Phil Pyatt

The last 12 months has been an unprecedented time for all of us as we navigate the new world which is Covid-19. At TimeBank we have a rich history of 20 years of volunteering to support some of those who are most vulnerable in our society.

None of this is possible without the dedication of our amazing volunteers, many of whom have been volunteering with TimeBank for a number of years. When our Talking Together project ended in early 2020, and with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we needed to find new ways of reaching and supporting our beneficiaries when face-to-face meetings were  no longer possible. We also needed our volunteers to adapt and change to this new world, to provide the same level of support through online methods like Zoom, often with people whose computer skills weren’t advanced, or who found the thought of talking over the internet extremely daunting.

I can’t stress enough how our volunteers have taken this in their stride, delivering effective support to  beneficiaries who have needed it so much.

Our TimeBank Tell-Us project in London and Birmingham funded by the Big Lottery was delivered by existing Talking Together volunteers who ran sessions on Zoom and WhatsApp to deliver key messages on Covid-19 safety to those whose English is not their first language. In addition, funding from Barrow Cadbury allowed us to engage with refugees and asylum seekers in Birmingham who were experiencing social isolation even before the pandemic and even more so during lockdown. Volunteers contacted them by phone, text or through online video calls once a week to check on their wellbeing and share Covid-1i9 advice and guidance.

‘I think this project can help refugees and asylum seekers be more confident in integrating with their community by talking to volunteers. It will also help with feelings of isolation and not having someone to talk to,” Esther, TimeBank volunteer.

Our TimeBank Voices project recorded some of the experiences of our volunteers and beneficiaries during the pandemic and the difficulties both they and their beneficiaries experienced during lockdown. See – TimeBank Voices – TimeBank

“I was moved to see how some of the students gave each other ideas of what they could do … one told us she was watching yoga videos and whereas previously she would have watched them in her own language, she had decided to watch them in English instead, which was helping her improve her English while doing her yoga. Other students came up with ideas which translated into actions that we could discuss the following week. It made me feel like I was really making a difference,” TimeBank volunteer.

During this time we also continued ourShoulder to Shoulder Online mentoring project for vulnerable ex-Service men and women in Scotland, which had a significant impact on their lives and wellbeing. The project began before the pandemic but was able to continue throughout the period, thanks to the volunteers who took part in the mentoring sessions. It showed us just how effective online mentoring could be.

Without our volunteers, none of our work would be possible in reaching those beneficiaries facing increased social isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic. As we celebrate Volunteers’ Week from  June 1-7, I want to take this opportunity on behalf of everyone at TimeBank to thank you for your dedication and commitment, and your resilience and flexibility in adapting so brilliantly to new delivery methods at this unprecedented time.

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