5th May 2020
Six Ways You Can Still Give Back During Lockdown
by Shaunagh Smith (Volunteer Coordinator)
As we enter week 6 of lockdown, I thought now would be the perfect time to reflect on some of the ways you have been, and can continue to, give back despite the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in. It has been so heartening to see how many staff and students at the University of Chester are playing a part to support others during Covid-19. For me, this pandemic has really emphasised the importance of coming together despite our differences and giving back to those who need our support most.
For those of us who are lucky enough to be healthy and with time to spare, there are lots of ways we can continue to help our key workers, our loved ones, and others in our community who need a little extra support right now, here’s my top 6:
There are lots of people separated from their loved ones at the moment, but it doesn’t mean we can’t keep in touch with one another. I don’t know about you, but I think I have seen more of my friends on weekly ‘Zoom’ quizzes than I perhaps would normally! Telephoning or video-calling your loved ones to check in and see how they are might not seem much, but it can make a huge difference to those who are feeling lonely during this time. If you want to reach out beyond your immediate circle, we have adapted our ‘Letters Against Loneliness’ project to send some kind words and put a smile on the face of an older person in our community who may be more isolated than normal during this time. Many staff and students have been sending letters to our contacts at local care homes which have been so positively received, if this is something you’d like to get involved with then please email us!
In many countries, blood banks saw a fall in donations after social distancing measures kicked in. Blood banks have stressed that even if their stocks are good now, it is important people keep donating as normal or register and make appointments to donate later in the year, to ensure a steady supply.
If you are already a donor you can still give blood as normal. There are updated guidelines on the NHS Give Blood website, as well as information on the precautionary measures being made at appointments in light of Covid-19. If you aren’t currently a donor, think about registering now, as the UK blood bank has told donors: "We will need you most later in the year as we feel the impact of coronavirus”.
The cancellation of fundraising events due to Coronavirus could have huge implications for the voluntary sector who rely heavily on donations. The cancellation of the London Marathon, which last year raised £66m for hundreds of charities, saw the charity sector get creative and encourage people to take part in a 2.6 challenge. If you haven’t had a chance to get involved, just complete a challenge with the numbers 2 and 6 involved, whether its running 2.6 miles, juggling for 2.6 minutes or racing 26 laps around your car park like University of Chester volunteer, Steph Taylor. It’s a fantastic way to fundraise for a charity close to your heart! If there’s one person who has inspired us all to fundraise this year, it’s Captain Tom Moore, who walked 100 lengths of his garden for his 100th Birthday raising over £32m for NHS Charities Together in the process, incredible! If you aren’t able to complete a fundraising challenge, a small donation to a friend’s fundraiser or to your chosen charity is still just as fantastic!
With restaurants, bars, gyms and social venues having to close their doors for the foreseeable future, it sadly leaves those businesses and their employees at risk; however, there are ways you can continue to support them from home. If you can, continue to order from your favourite independents - those who are able to are now offering takeaway and delivery options (including some that didn’t offer this service before the outbreak!) - or purchase a gift card to use when they do open up again. If you don’t have the extra funds to support in this way, you can still help by giving good reviews and sharing your favourite indies with your friends! It’s not all about food though, if you had tickets to a gig, show or class that is no longer going ahead, try to postpone instead of cancelling, as this helps prevent venues being out of pocket and also gives you something to look forward to after lockdown. I’ve also been taking part in online classes to show support for businesses, have fun and try something new in the process, so far I’ve tried calligraphy, wine tasting and yoga!
Of course, I have to give a big shout out volunteering! Although the majority of face-to-face volunteering has stopped for the time being, there are still lots of volunteering opportunities that you can get involved with to help local communities and those around the world. We have a page on our website with more information on the national response to Covid-19 and have already seen staff and students volunteer as NHS responders and supporting local causes like the West Cheshire Foodbank. If you are volunteering in the community, remember to follow NHS guidelines for protecting yourself. If you would rather volunteer from the comfort and safety of your sofa, that’s okay too! You can give as much or as little time as you want, and you can log your virtual volunteering hours in your volunteer profile. Whether you’re providing regular phone calls to isolated people with Re-Engage, sending letters to sick children through Post Pals, or identifying wildlife through Instant Wild, it all makes a difference to charities around the world. You can check out the new volunteering from home page on our website for more information about all of the fantastic volunteering opportunities available to you! Thank you for giving your time as a volunteer, however you do this, whether virtually or in the community, as it all helps and will make a huge difference in the response to this current crisis.
This might feel counter intuitive when we’re talking about giving back to the community, but it is genuinely the best way to give back to key workers at this time. Staying home and adhering to social distancing means you are not putting key workers and vulnerable members of society at risk. Being socially responsible is of utmost importance right now, so if you are taking part in any of the above activities, please remember to stay safe.
The current situation has really highlighted the importance of community, creativity and adaptability, I feel so proud to be part of the University of Chester community, and I love hearing stories of how people are giving back. As my colleague, Amy said in last month’s blog, “volunteering does not come from an act of self-preservation, but a natural response to help others in an uncertain time”. I couldn’t have put it better myself; the stories we hear are all of people wanting to play their part and do what they can to help others. Please continue to share your inspiring stories with us, and we’ll share them far and wide to help keep spirits high.
6th April 2020
History & Heritage – The Difference a Century Makes?
by Amy Butt (Mentoring Administrative Assistant)
Volunteer – “A person who does something, especially helping other people, willingly and without being forced or paid to do it.”
It is difficult to determine when volunteering truly began, with the term ‘volunteering’ itself having only originated in the 1600s. Terminology, however, does not necessarily define volunteering, but rather the nature and acts of the individuals themselves do. As we write this blog entry, we see this like never before, with 750,000 everyday people (and counting) putting themselves forward to help the NHS as we face a global crisis; and whilst it is coined as ‘volunteering’ most see it as simply “doing their part”. The kindness of thousands is something history will look back on with admiration, and yet it is an act that thousands have done without a second thought. So, what makes volunteering what it is today? Have social expectations changed the collective opinion and reasons for volunteering? Or is the act of volunteering not far from how it has been in the past?
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) suggests that one of the reasons someone may volunteer stems from a need to “give back to an organisation that has impacted on a person’s life, either directly or indirectly.” It is easy to understand why thousands have volunteered for the NHS at this present time – the Covid-19 virus has affected everyone, no matter what race, age, gender, or social standing a person may be – but it is not a fair to suggest that this reason to volunteer is any less noble than any other. It is natural to be drawn to opportunities that have affected us deeply, and the further reaching a crisis is, the more likely societies are going to come together to help one another. It is safe to say that we are currently living through a historical event, and we need only look at previous historic periods to see the trend of wanting to help others during a crisis emerge.
Although there are countless examples we would love to acknowledge, we look at the British Red Cross as it celebrates its 150th anniversary as an example of how volunteering has moulded itself to fit social expectations and also change the limitations of volunteering. From its establishment in 1870, to its support through both world wars and its current worldwide movement, the British Red Cross has shown its ability to adapt whilst staying true to its seven fundamental principles. Currently, we see the organisation calling for Red Cross Community Reserve Volunteers and asking people to help in any way they can as “kindness will keep us together”. Whilst this movement of kindness is not new to the organisation, or society in general, it has been reiterated in today’s climate, and is used to remind others of the importance of community – a stance that is not too far from their voluntary actions during both world wars.
Looking back over a century, we see that World War I created a new wave of voluntary action; introducing nearly 18,000 new charities to help with the war effort. Admirably, this global conflict also led to societal truces; most notably the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) and the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) put aside their political grievances to support the war effort – adding to the huge impact of women’s efforts during this unstable period. One of the organisations which has stood the test of time through this conflict and beyond is the British Red Cross. The organisation played a major part in supporting the war effort, introducing Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) to help with nursing, transport, cooking and other necessary activities. What is noteworthy is that this voluntary action asked for support from both men and women; bringing them together under one cause like never before. All the voluntary action of 1914-1918 showcased the true meaning of volunteering; solidarity by helping others willingly and without expectation of rewards or even acknowledgement. It was simply people “doing their part” to help in any way they can.
So why is it we are looking back at a conflict that occurred over a century ago, and seemingly has no resemblance to our current circumstances? It namely comes down to one significant, yet important, similarity; we, as a society, have come together and put differences aside to help each other in any way we can. Whether you are one of the 750,000 (and rising) to have signed up to help the NHS, or are simply checking up on a friend, family member or neighbour, you are “doing your part”. It does not come from an act of self-preservation, but rather the natural response of helping others through an uncertain time. They are actions we can look back on with pride in years to come, but at this present time we do not have a second thought of helping in any way we can; and that in itself is what makes the action of volunteering so commendable, and also one that, in hindsight, has not changed through time. Helping others is simply something we do, and will continue to do for years, even centuries, to come; whatever the reason may be.