Volunteers’ Week: What a year we’ve had!

It’s Volunteers’ Week and we are taking the opportunity to thank our team of volunteers at KVIN for their contribution and the difference they make.
In the past year we have had some wonderful volunteer highlights,

  • We currently have 33 volunteers, 15 have Visual impairments and 18 are sighted, 16 of these volunteers have joined the team in the past year.
  • In January we were recognised with a Kirklees Volunteering Quality Award for our good practice in volunteering, find out more here.
  • In October last year we enjoyed the Valli Rally sponsored walk organised by trustee Moin of Valli Opticians. Many of our volunteers joined in and it was great to all be together for the day, helping each other complete the challenge.
  • In January our funders, the National Lottery visited our Dewsbury drop-in and spoke to volunteers about what they do. They were very impressed with our service and the differenc that volunteers make for people with sight loss in Kirklees.

We have a variety of roles that volunteers undertake in the organisation; from VI volunteers providing peer support and technology advice to sighted volunteers guiding service users to sessions, through to admin and marketing and the team of trustees overseeing the running of the organisation.

We have developed a flexible approach to volunteering so that volunteering with us is accessible to as many people as possible. This means we tailor roles to individuals’ interests, skills, and their availability.

During the corona virus crisis this flexible approach has never been so important as we have all had to adapt the way operate so that we are able to continue to support people with sight loss across Kirklees.

Many of our volunteers have adapted quickly and have continued to stay involved by embracing new technology like Zoom Chats or getting involved in shopping and technology drop-offs.

This crisis has highlighted how important volunteers are and will continue to be in the future, we would like to thank all our volunteers for their contribution, it all makes a difference and KVIN wouldn’t be able to support people with sight loss without them all!

Here we hear from some of our volunteers about their volunteer experience with KVIN over the past year;

Sophie supports Coffee, Cake and Chat group and also helps with my guide training for new volunteer and guiding service users to and from the office. She says ‘Everyone at KVIN is friendly and supportive, a highlight of volunteering was taking part in Valli rally sponsored walk guiding a service user so that she could take part. Volunteering at KVIN has helped improve my confidence, I’ve learnt new skills and met lots of new people as well as giving something back. During lockdown, volunteering has changed, I’ve joined in the zoom chats and helped to make information accessible for the website.’

‘I started volunteering with KVIN in January 2020 and have been involved in the drop-in group at Dewsbury. I am sighted so help with setting up the room, signing people in and out, making refreshments and clearing up at the end of the group. Volunteering at KVIN has given me a sense of purpose. I feel like I am helping others and giving something back to the community. I’ve also met some friendly people. For me it’s been great to be able to volunteer as it gets me out of the house once a week and I am meeting new people. Unfortunately, I’ve stopped volunteering for now because the group is no longer running during lockdown, but I’m keeping in touch and looking forward to when the group starts again, hopefully soon.’

Stew got involved as a volunteer to help plan the route for the Valli Rally and then organised a quiz night. He thinks volunteering with KVIN is ‘Good fun, I always feel like I’m doing something useful uses my skills. I’ve met new people and a feel like I’m giving something back.’

Sam says, ‘Before lockdown I supported a weekly peer support session offering general peer to peer advice on living with vision loss, and some more technical advice related to smart phones and apps. For me, the best part of volunteering is the people I have met, as I now consider many of my fellow volunteers and service users to be good friends. A highlight is seeing the way many of the service users have developed, in terms of increased mobility, general confidence levels, or in the use of technology. During lockdown my volunteering is now a lot more fluid, before I was volunteering on the Thursday, now I tend to be doing bits every day remotely. It’s been a new learning curve to support people remotely, something we’ve all adapted to well.’

Cheryl has got involved with volunteering with KVIN during lockdown and has been an invaluable help; ‘I deliver food shopping, support service users and help with any problems they are having and delivering tech equipment and food shopping. I like volunteering with KVIN because of the warm, informal nature of the organisation. I enjoy the tech conversations, new network of lovely people and being able to volunteer without loads of formal training and IT recording systems that turn it into another job! During lockdown I’ve learn how to use zoom which will enable me to assist others, e.g. in my creative group where the majority of members do not use technology. But I do miss meeting up face to face and Zoom can’t replace that but is working for now.’

Aisha says, ‘Before lockdown I regularly volunteered at our drop-in sessions in both Huddersfield and Dewsbury. My role as a volunteer involved offering peer and tech support as well as a listening ear for people dealing with issues, they face due to sight loss. I am also a trustee for the organisation which involves attending regular meetings to oversee the development and management of the charity. KVIN makes me feel valued as a volunteer by keeping me regularly up to date with what’s going on within the organisation, having regular appraisals, it’s a very positive environment in general to work in. I know that if I have any issues with volunteering then there are plenty of people I can turn to for support. Being asked to become a trustee for the charity last year has been one of the highlights of the year for me. I am proud to be able to be given the opportunity to bring my experience as a KVIN service user and volunteer to the trustee table. Volunteering with KVIN has given me the opportunity to meet people from all different walks of life. I have made many friends through attending the drop-in sessions and it has been wonderful to hear our service user’s life experiences. It has also given me the opportunity to develop my skills and confidence which will hopefully have a positive impact when looking for employment in the future. Throughout lockdown, I feel that my role as a trustee has not been hugely impacted, we are able to regularly hold meetings using Zoom and have found that it has enabled us to hold them more regularly as we do not have to worry about the logistics as much. I do miss the physical element of volunteering at our drop-in sessions, although I find the zoom meetings are a good second option. I am still able to offer an element of peer support although it is very different from the one-to-one or small group chats, we used to have.’

David is our longest serving volunteer as he was part of the original group who formed the organisation, he is a trustee and volunteers providing one on one technology support, ‘I like volunteering with KVIN because I can share knowledge and skills that are useful to others losing their eyesight so that they can continue to do things they want to do and enjoy life as much as possible. In the last year it has been wonderful seeing the organisation grow and get more people involved which enables us to help more people with sight loss. During lockdown we have had to adapt the way we work and support people by working remotely to continue the aims and objectives of why the organisation was formed. This is challenging as we are as busy as ever, but we have found ways to support each other whilst all at home.’

Martin has volunteered with KVIN for over 5 years now, he’s got involved in a lot of different projects over the years, ‘Before lockdown I was involved with peer support, sharing information about services, products and displaying apps, which could improve your daily life, as well as demonstrating products like I phones one cup kettles etc, and generally making people feel at ease and welcome. I like volunteering with KVIN because I’ve met new people and helped give them confidence and listened to their story. A highlight for me is seeing the Dewsbury and Batley drop-in groups become busier and now joining the Zoom meetings to keep people involved. I had to learn how to use Zoom quickly when lockdown started but its great fun and important as a lot of people are not seeing anyone else during the lock down.