Let’s celebrate and recognise amazing local volunteers across Dudley borough.

It’s that time of year again, when volunteer-involving organisations’ thoughts turn to how to celebrate their wonderful volunteers.  However, a volunteer is for life and not just Volunteers Week, so I thought I would share a series of posts around ensuring your volunteers have the best possible experience.

So lots of articles out there around managing volunteers and good practice tend to focus on the volunteer-involving organisation’s view of the volunteering journey and I’ve decided it’s time to see things from the volunteer’s perspective.

Running a volunteer centre means that I am often contacted by volunteers who feel they have not had the best experience, been treated unfairly or are quite simply disillusioned with the whole thing and have decided it’s not worth the effort!  I’m often called on to do mediation or advocacy to try to repair the volunteer/organisation relationship too, so I’m encouraging you lovely volunteer managers out there to walk in your volunteers’ shoes and see the other side of the relationship.

These posts are not a criticism in any way of how you do things, they are just aimed to help you understand a volunteer’s perspective and enhance your volunteer/organisation relationships.   Managing volunteers is challenging as all volunteers are totally unique and often you are constrained by systems and procedures you don’t really have control over: however, you can certainly personalise parts of your volunteer management systems to make them more volunteer-friendly I’m sure.

Hopefully this series of posts will help you see things from the volunteer’s perspective and improve the way you interact with them, after all a happy, valued volunteer is more productive and a great advertisement for your organisation.

There are eight elements to this series and although there may some sections that appear to repeat what is in other posts, I felt it would be easier if I themed each one, so please do bear with them.

  1. Recruitment
  2. Selection and interviews
  3. Induction
  4. Support
  5. Motivation
  6. Development and training
  7. Recognition

Capturing the character of amazing local volunteers

At the start of 2018 DCVS was invited to assist Midland Film And Art, a collection of artists, craft workers, writers, performers and film producers, who were applying to the Arts Council (England) for funding towards a Character Portraits Project. The idea for the project was to create 24 real-life portraits of volunteers from across Dudley and Sandwell in recognition of what volunteers do to help their local communities.

DCVS agreed to support the project and put forward the names of 12 Dudley volunteers, including our Chairman, Mike Abrahams.  The artists taking part included writers and actors, and all went through an application and selection process.

The project application was approved by Arts Council (England) and this wonderful project commenced.

The Dudley borough volunteers who had been nominated were celebrated in variety of creative formats including the written word, sculpture, portraits in oils, felt and graphite, and even a mutoscope!  MFAA recorded films to record the process for each piece of art and these are available on our YouTube Channel if you would like to watch them.

On 12th April we will be holding a celebration event where family and friends of the subjects, plus the artists and supporters involved from MFAA will have a final opportunity to see the original pieces. The Mayor of Dudley, Cllr Alan Taylor, will be presenting the originals to the subjects for them to keep.  Local art lovers are most welcome to pop in and see these amazing pieces for themselves between 3 and 4 pm on Friday 12th April, in the main hall at DY1 Venue, Stafford Street, Dudley DY1 1RT.

However, this will not be the last time you get to see these pieces as we have plans to convert images of the artwork onto canvas prints for public display, and for them to tour the borough displayed in various locations so everyone can enjoy them.

Over the next few months we will be sharing pictures of these wonderful creative pieces individually and telling you the stories behind these amazing volunteers who are featured in them.

One of the portraits will be on display in the café at DY1 Venue from 15th April until 30th June 2019.  Steve Mukanovic (Ford) passed away in late December and was a well-known local volunteer, who had also volunteered as a minibus driver for Dudley CVS.  As he had so many friends, Dudley CVS thought it would be appropriate for his portrait to be displayed in the café so that friends and family could pop in for a cuppa and reflect on their much loved friend and relative.  The portrait will hopefully be going to a permanent home where he volunteered for over 30 years, but we wanted to share this beautiful piece of art with the world before it goes to its final location.

A lifetime of volunteering -Steve Mukanovic [aka Steve Ford]

Steve was a volunteer for 35 years, supporting Dudley Hospital Radio and then  the Children’s Ward at Russells Hall Hospital.  He was also a volunteer for Dudley CVS for many years, driving our minibuses around the borough offering the elderly and disabled an opportunity to enjoy social activities. His warm personality and sense of humour made him very popular with his passengers, who always left the bus with a smile on their face.

In 2016 Steve Mukanovic was awarded the Children & Families Main Award at Dudley Volunteer Awards 2016, for his outstanding contribution to making children’s stays in hospital more pleasant and in recognition of making 500+ local children’s dreams come true. Everything from riding in a helicopter or a Ferrari, to meeting a celebrity or smashing gnomes!

His nominator Linda tells us just what made him so special. She said:

“He is not only an inspiration to us all but is also truly humbling. You would have to really meet him to understand his charisma and unique sense of fun, he is truly a one off and we are so proud that he chooses to help us.  It would be the best thing ever to give him some of the recognition he truly deserves especially as he is rather down awaiting further surgery.”

 Steve’s presentation photo and nomination film may be viewed by following this link

Midlands Film and Art’s Character Portraits Project 2018

In 2018 Dudley CVS were approached by Midlands Art Yard to help them identify 12 local community volunteers to take part in their Characters Portrait Project, where they would be a feature of a unique piece of artwork.

Steve’s Character Portraits Project video may be viewed here and it’s wonderful to hear him talking about his passion for volunteering and the joy he got from it.

In the video Steve shared his thoughts on volunteering:

“Volunteering has kept me active physically and mentally, and hopefully there’s 500 children from the Dudley area who had their wish come true already.

 As a volunteer of course you don’t get paid for what you do not in financial terms, but to see that smile how can you put a price on that? Then of course you’ve got the day itself when you meet up and you see them lift off in that helicopter, or set off in that car so you get another smile, and you get a smile from the family and that’s a very fulfilling it’s very rewarding.”

 

Team Santa Elf

Steve with Sarah Alliband and Jayne Waltho

In October 2018 Steve joined the volunteer elves supporting Operation Santa Dudley borough and spent 6 weeks, sorting and wrapping gifts in the grotto.  He also attended the special Christmas party on 17th December at the Court House carvery in Kingswinford along with the other elves, helping us set up the room and entertaining the 50+ children, and their parents who attended.

 

We were sorry to hear that Steve passed away in December 2018 and will be sadly missed.  There was a lovely feature in the Express & Star.

Eileen from Operation Santa said:

“Steve was just 100 per cent the nicest man. The outpouring of love for him is incredible. He was an absolute star.”

 

 

 

 

A place to connect and make lasting friendships: Lye Men’s Group

The idea for The Men’s Group began in 2015 when my colleague Nick Tromans, the Integrated Plus Locality Link Officer for Stourbridge, Wollescote and Lye, had a high number of referrals for men with similar mental health needs and social isolation.  This led Nick to Reverend Simon Falshaw the Vicar from Christ Church in Lye and they discussed the need to offer a place for men to come and connect with each other.  The church was interested in supporting the idea and offered the church hall as a place to host the group.  A successful funding bid to the Near Neighbours Fund was approved and this helped start the group and pay for room hire.

The main factor for the success of the group is the volunteers who help run the group, they set up the room, serve refreshments and ensure a warm and friendly welcome to everybody who attends.  They can empathise with the group because they have had similar experiences and are well placed to offer peer to peer support.  Andrew was the first volunteer and he fostered an atmosphere of calm, respect and empathy.  Unfortunately, Andrew died suddenly in 2017 but his ethos remains within the group. Nick and I are involved in some aspects of the running of the group but the volunteers are the mainstay of the group and are vital and committed to its ongoing success.

The group has blossomed and three years on it is still going strong.  We have men aged from 19 to 90 in the group.  Over 130 men have attended the group in total and there are around 20-25 men from a pool of about 40 who attend every week.  Over the past few years we have had lots of activities at the group including, Get Cooking courses, glass engraving, bread making and well-being sessions.  The group also have regular cooked breakfasts, pool and darts tournaments and celebrations for Eid and Christmas.  There is no pressure for anybody to be involved in the activities and they are welcome to come and have a cup of tea and do their own thing.

Peer support reduces loneliness and isolation and improves self-esteem and confidence, this is certainly evident in the group.  Many positive and enduring friendships have been made by those attending the group.  People attend together and those in the group with limited mobility and difficulty attending have lifts arranged with friends they have met in the group.  If somebody has not attended in a while people rally round and see if they can help.  Friends meet outside of the group and do social activities together and meet at each other’s homes independent of the group, some have even gone on holiday together.  Another major reason for the success of the group is the non-judgemental attitude of all who attend and volunteer, it is inspiring and makes for a smoothly run and supportive group.

Barry began attending the group supported by his wife and Nick and has now become a regular attendee.  He has made new friends who he looks forward to spending time with in the group.  His friendships have developed further and he now meets up with his new friends outside of the group at home and in social situations.  Barry said he was not aware of any groups or activities like this in his local area and he said the group and the friendships he has made have ‘lifted me off the floor and given me something to look forward to.’

Those men who attend who can afford to make a donation can contribute to the running of the session.  Using an asset-based approach and working in partnerships with the local council and other organisations has enabled the group to run for little cost and has further helped the success of the group.

If you would like more information about the Men’s Group contact gary@dudleycvs.org.uk

Find out more about how Integrated Plus are supporting people to become more involved, connected and active in their communities at https://integratedplusblog.com/about/

DY1-stop shop: Open door for anyone involved or wanting to be involved in community initiatives, charities or enterprises

DY1-stop shop poster for socmed

On Wednesday 2nd March, Eileen and I are launching DY1-stop shop! We’ll be throwing open DY1’s doors to anyone who wants to chat through anything to do with:

  • Setting up a project or group – information and guidance on how to get started, what routes you could take, how to get support
  • Running a charity or voluntary organisation – you might want information on leading an organisation, responsibilities of being a trustee, compliance, help with rules and paperwork, finance, planning
  • Recruiting and supporting people to help run your group or activities – you might be looking for volunteers or helpers to make great things happen
  • Getting more active in your community – you might be interested in volunteering, joining local groups, clubs and organisations
  • Connecting with other organisations

Whether you’re from an existing voluntary group, charity or social enterprise, or you’d like to do more to support your community, come along to get your questions answered, generate ideas and feel supported all over a friendly cuppa!

Drop in on us anytime between 10am and 1pm in the coffee shop area of DY1, Stafford Street, Dudley, DY1 1RT. This will continue on the first Wednesday of every month.

We’re looking forward to meeting you there!

Celebrating our work with people, communities and organisations

Dudley CVS Annual Report, 2014-15

I’m really pleased to share the work I and my wonderful colleagues have done to support individuals, communities and organisations last year. The Dudley CVS Annual Report outlines how we’ve been connecting and inspiring people and organisations to achieve positive change and championing their work. It covers the year April 2014-March 2015.

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