Updated: Jun 17
As one of the volunteer coordinators for Nantwich Buddies, it's been one of my tasks these last few months to rally the Buddies along and ask them to share with us (and you if you're reading this) some of their volunteer stories.
So I guess it seems only fair to lead by example and share my own story, which is this:
Although I don't actually see clients on a weekly basis as many of our Buddies do, I became involved in an administrative capacity relatively late to the group, in August to be exact. This was after the initial flurry of activity during the first lock-down and after Liz had already established a strong and formidable group of volunteers who were supporting a growing client base.
Being a jack of all trades but a master of none, at the time I had a few work projects on the go, but one of them - Slimming World consultant in Congleton - had been massively impacted by the pandemic. I'd gone from running three groups with over 150 members to support to running my classes via ZOOM for only a quarter of members who were still with me and attending the sessions virtually.
So I made the very hard decision of stepping down from the role that I had loved so much for nearly five years to concentrate on finishing my counselling qualification whilst working for local mental health charity North Staffs Mind.
Liz suggested that I might like to spend some of my newly-found free hours helping out with a volunteer group she'd set up with the help of friends and family in Nantwich called Nantwich Buddies. The group had gained some momentum having supported over 120 households during that first lockdown, including clients who were accessing Cheshire East's People Helping People (PHP) scheme too.
At that point in time, some restrictions were changing and we needed to do a review of both Buddies and clients to see if:
Clients still required our help
Volunteers were still available to support clients, as many volunteers who were on furlough were starting to return to work
This was my first job and fortunately, during those first few months in between lockdowns, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the Buddies during a soiree in a volunteer's garden.
What I found most interesting about the group and the people I've met, was that they were from all walks of life, many weren't Dabbers, having moved to Nantwich some time ago or even just before lock-down. Several of the Buddies wanted to volunteer because they had just moved to the area and wanted to find something to do and to meet like-minded people. Unfortunately, we haven't managed to organise our proper Buddies celebration get together as yet, but that hasn't stopped us from meeting new Buddies and getting to know each other virtually over ZOOM during our monthly meetings, and the free volunteer workshops that we ran last year. The workshops also gave me the opportunity to meet more inspiring and wonderful people in addition to our Buddies led us to set up our mental health podcast called the Happiness Hub.
The whole experience has been an uplifting one during a time that has challenged us all. I'm grateful to Liz for asking me to get involved and I'm grateful to have met so many caring, considerate and selfless people who make up the Buddies. So many people really do go above and beyond to help our clients, and the general attitude with everyone involved is "Let's get on and do it!"
As Mark said in last week's blog, we're not sure what the future will hold for the Buddies, but I think there was a need for a volunteer group like the Buddies even before the pandemic, and there are always people in every community who could use volunteers' help.
Kedren pictured here on the left with Buddies founder Liz Parkin on a rainy day in Nantwich last year. Redrow housing kindly donated funds to the Buddies so we could build this website to showcase our services and stories.