Finding a new role as a volunteer

By Amy, CCVS Volunteer. March 2022.

Hello! It’s Amy here again and I’m writing about how to find a new voluntary role. If you haven’t done voluntary work before, it might help you to know how to go about it and this article should give you some guidance.

Voluntary work is similar to a job (but you don’t get paid for it). It can be quite daunting doing something new, but there are ways of getting support as you take this step towards volunteering. I can say from my own experience that it will be worth it! 

If you need support, get in touch with Ellie from CCVS who will offer you an informal chat where you will be able to discuss what kind of roles you’re interested in and all the steps you will need to take. At the moment meetings are only online or over the phone. That can be challenging for some, and you might want somebody to help you with it, but it’s good to try to do this independently if you feel that you can. This will show what you can do for yourself. Doing things for the first time helps build your confidence and can prepare you for future work interviews. CCVS knows a lot about charities and volunteering, and they can really help. If you’re uncomfortable with a 1:1 chat, there is an online group option which you may prefer.

You can get in touch with ellie@cambridgecvs.org.uk for more details.

Another option would be to ask people that you know (friends or family) who are already volunteering or can help guide you towards the right opportunities, but bear in mind that sometimes what works for them might not work for you. For instance, you may disagree on what kind of volunteering would be good for you.

Doing research on the internet might help (but you’ll need to know what you’re looking for). If you know the name of some places or organisations that offer the kind of work you want to do, you could look them up on Google and look at their website. Sometimes websites are not up to date, but whatever barriers you face in looking for voluntary work, don’t give up!  If you use social media (like Facebook or Instagram), you could look for opportunities on there.

Do- it website is dedicated to help matching people and organisations locally, but it can be a little bit difficult to use. However always a good starting point to see what is out there.

Visiting the place where you’re interested in volunteering might give you more of an idea if it’s right for you, but you may need to ring first to make an appointment. You’ll be able to ask to speak to someone about volunteering, if they are recruiting (which means looking for) volunteers and finding out about the application process. Visiting beforehand gives you a chance to see if the place would suit you, is it too busy, too noisy, too big, or will it send you into a sensory overload.

Every organisation or group that recruit volunteers have different procedures. You may be required to send a CV, an application form or cover letter or both. Some places may want you to come in and have an induction meeting and spend a bit of time working at the place to see what it’s like. In some cases, you may be asked to come for a meeting and then wait to be contacted about whether, and when you can start your volunteering. You may be asked why you want to do the role and what it is that makes you a good volunteer to take on and what skills you have. There will be an opportunity to talk to them about the kind of support that would help you best.

Myself and CCVS can help with interview tips, we’ll dedicate a whole piece on that alone in future.

No matter how it goes, do celebrate your achievement: it is challenging to find a suitable role, and you should be very proud of yourself for having taken the challenge on!

Taking volunteering to the public online 

By Chris Trevorrow. February 2022.

Bright yellow table, with computer keyboard and digital tablet
Photo by Georgie Cobbs on Unsplash

The last couple of years has resulted in many of us rethinking how we do things. In early 2022 CCVS decided to host some free online volunteer fairs, aimed at the public, to support local voluntary groups with the challenging task of recruiting the volunteers they need. Our aim was to capitalise on people’s New Year resolutions and the loosening of Covid restrictions and help raise the profile of volunteering for local groups. Although the fairs were tied in with the City Council Volunteer for Cambridge initiative, many of the groups involved are looking to recruit volunteers throughout the county. 

We know from research1 that to attract more people into volunteering groups need to be visible, accessible and flexible. People showed during the pandemic that they were interested in helping others, but now with their lives starting to return to something like normal, many feel they lack time to commit and don’t know where to find roles that are a good fit for them. Our volunteer fairs looked to highlight a few of the many volunteer opportunities available, with varying levels of flexibility and time requirements. It also gave people the chance to put a face to a group and invited them to ask questions and fill in a simple form or contact the group direct to hear more.  

We worked with 10 voluntary groups supporting them to produce 5-minute recordings outlining their volunteer opportunities. We hosted the fairs as two lunchtime sessions to which any member of the public with internet access could sign up and where the groups showed their presentations and answered questions live.  

As a result of a lot of promotional effort nearly 100 tickets were booked for the two fairs. Everyone who signed up to the fairs has received links to all the presentations and the contact form and have been encouraged to share the information with friends and family – we hope this will extend the impact of the fairs beyond the events themselves. 

The Initial feedback from the public suggests they enjoyed being able to easily hear about different opportunities and ask questions without leaving their desks or their homes. Some of the voluntary groups taking part have reported increased traffic to their volunteer pages on their websites and some have already seen an increase in people getting in touch to find out more about volunteering. We’ll be checking in with the groups to see if this increase in interest converts to more volunteers supporting their work in the community. If the feedback is positive, we’ll consider running more online fairs in the future. 

To watch presentations from groups who attended our Volunteer Fair in early 2022 visit this link

The presenting groups were: 

Care Network 

Caring Together 

Cambridge Reuse 

Cambridgeshire  & Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust 

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Age UK  

Little Miracles 

Red Balloon of the Air  

Safe Soulmates 

Steel Bones  

The Red Hen Project 

We have more information about volunteering available on our website or you can contact us on volunteer@cambridgecvs.org.uk 

Mental health matters. You matter.

By Lorna Gough. January 2022

How important is yours and your team’s mental health and wellbeing to your organisation?

Hopefully it’s top of the priority list.

However, wanting it to be top of the list, and actually making time to ensure steps are taken to protect and enhance your own, and your team’s mental health may not always feel easy.

One in four adults in England have at some time been diagnosed with mental illnesses, while one in five, report experiencing mental health issues without a diagnosis.1 Workplaces are seeing ever increasing stress levels, especially during the last two years negotiating a way through the pandemic.

It’s vital that we all play our part in helping to keep ourselves and our colleagues as mentally healthy as possible.

The World Health Organisation 2014 statement defines mental health as:

“A state of wellbeing in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.”

Here at CCVS we take health and wellbeing seriously.

We look out for each other.

We make sure we have occasional (Covid permitting) face to face meet ups, with a walk (usually ending with a cuppa and cake!)

We have weekly coffee time catch ups, where we chat for 15 to 30 minutes about random every day, non work-related things. (Recent topics have included the fact that such a thing as penguin covered gaffer tape exists; luxury dog beds; cats sleeping in flowerpots; and the childhood trick of ‘apple-pie-ing’ sibling’s beds. Readers of a more mature age may know what I’m talking about here, it’s a bed which, as a practical joke has one of the sheets folded back on itself so the person cannot straighten their legs when they get into bed – sorry little brother! Being the only boy in the family, with three sisters, my brother put up with a lot!)

CCVS has recently taken two positive steps to improve how we look after ourselves and our team.

  1. We have created and implemented an organisational health and wellbeing strategy which states:

A healthy workplace is where everyone feels able to share that they’re having a bad day, with no feeling of stigma, where spending 15 minutes, or even 5 minutes, away from a desk for self-care is an investment in wellbeing, which will enhance work in the long run.  

A workplace where the team spend time together, if they feel comfortable doing so, taking part in occasional activities to benefit wellbeing and build strength as a healthy team. (Demonstrated by our recent participation in the volunteer tree planting session with Cambridge Past, Present and Future)

The strategy lays out ways in which we can look after ourselves, and what we can do if we’re having a bad day. Every week we share a wellbeing tip in our Slack (communication platform) channel. There is no obligation to take part, or to feedback. We agree to be non-judgemental, respectful, and maintain confidentiality.

The wellbeing tips include suggestions such as :

  • Sit outside and listen for 10 sounds 
  • Sit outside and look for 20 things 
  • Pick up a book and read for 15 minutes 
  • Write down what has gone well for you this week 
  • Do 15 minutes of exercise 

Spending time away from the screen, and from work tasks, concentrating mindfully on something else for a short period of time is a way of relieving stress. Doing something enjoyable like listening to the birds outside can be a real mood booster.

Encouraging the team to take breaks and emphasising that taking time for ourselves is not only permitted, but positively encouraged, gives us all confidence that our health is important, and that it’s ok to invest time in staying well. What a wonderful positive message that gives to us all, that we matter, our health and our wellbeing matters

2. One of our team has completed the Mental Health First Aider certificate training. That’s me.

Over the last two weeks I’ve attended the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England course. MHFA England has a goal to train 1 in 10 adults in the UK in Mental Health First Aid. The number currently stands at 1 in 56. Good progress is being made, but there is still a way to go. The more people that understand, and can support those struggling with poor mental health, the better.

The course, which is either two full days, or four half day sessions, plus a number of hours of additional coursework, empowers attendees to provide initial support to those developing mental health issues or in mental health crisis.

A mix of tutorials, discussions, activities, and case studies make the course interesting and interactive. Even though some of the content is emotive, it is covered in a sensitive way with no pressure to take part in any activities you may find upsetting.

I thoroughly recommend the course to anyone feeling undecided about it and encourage organisations to consider enrolling a team member onto a MHFA course.

In the meantime, the MHFA England website, contains a wealth of resources and information for all.

If you would like to know more about our health and wellbeing strategy, and what you can do for your own team and organisation, to promote better mental health, do get in touch: lorna@cambridgecvs.org.uk

A mentally healthy community, is a productive and creative community.2

1MHFA England statistics.

2MHFA England quote

12 Days of Christmas – sharing Christmas appeals, initiatives and information

By Lorna Gough. Communications Worker. December 2021.

Leading up to Christmas, the CCVS team decided we would like to highlight some of the wonderful ways in which local organisations are supporting our community this year. From putting together hampers, to distributing gifts, and selling Christmas Trees, the Cambridgeshire Voluntary Sector community is doing what it does best – helping people in times of need. We’re also including non local voluntary initiatives which can be accessed locally or online.

This year Christmas will be particularly hard for so many families.

As many of us sit down to a delicious Christmas meal, followed by an evening of good company, family games, Christmas TV and plenty of sweets, nuts and chocolates, there will be many people hidden behind closed doors, or out on the street, struggling to make the day any different to their every day. Struggling to give their families a day to remember, a treat, a festive time. Struggling to get warm, stay warm, and to lift their mood enough to get through the day. Struggling to feel hope, let alone joy.

Individuals and families may be battling poor health – mentally and physically, financial hardship, loneliness and desperation, grief, homelessness, displacement, or domestic abuse. The rise in the cost of energy, cuts to universal credit, food shortages and the rise in day-to-day cost of living will be compounding those struggles.

Thanks to the hard work of our local voluntary organisations, some light relief will be on its way to many of those in need in our community.

We’re sharing links to some of the local appeals, initiatives and support we’ve been made aware of, as well as products available to buy. The non local opportunities may be of interest to anyone looking at new things to get involved with. The list is not exhaustive and there are bound to be some we’ve missed. If you’d like to share details of something you know about, we’d be happy to add to this list.

Email lorna@cambridgecvs.org.uk with ’12 days of Christmas’ in the subject line, and a link to the appropriate website.

Appeals and Christmas products

Abbey People – Christmas Hamper Appeal.

Cherry Hinton Food Hub and Community Fridge Christmas Donations

Addenbrookes Charitable Trust Christmas hamper appeal

Arthur Rank Christmas Tree recycling scheme

Red hen Project – 5 ways to help a child in need this Christmas

PhoenixMilton are selling Christmas Trees and other Christmas related products such as wooden crates for hampers and gifts

Cruse Bereavement Support – Grieving at Christmas

Cambridge City Council – Food Poverty Alliance Christmas Gifts for vulnerable families

Migrateful – online cookery classes and work Christmas online parties, as well as catering options.

Romsey Mill Christmas appeal for Aspire, their work with local autistic young people and their families.. 

Salvation Army Christmas Present Appeal

Where to go for help in a mental health crisis:

Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and South Lincolnshire Mind.

Lifecrafts LifeLine service

The Samaritans

Call 111 and press option 2 for the First Response Service

A desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy

Why now must be the time for community power and community wealth building

The title is a quote attributed to Guy Fawkes, but it seems eminently suitable as we come out of the biggest global pandemic in living memory. I am not advocating burning down the houses of parliament, but I am advocating finding radical ways to move power from the centre to the people, and changing where the rewards for work flow to. If we are to make a difference to some of the big issues in the world whether that is poverty and inequality, or climate change then we have to engage and empower communities and the people in them.

I am not an expert in either of these topics and if you want to find out more, a simple internet search will give you plenty of food for thought. I do, however, have some experience of working with communities and the groups that are embedded in them – groups that deliver services and bring people together, groups that are the glue that binds communities together.

We need people with skills in working with communities to help them realise their ambitions. We need people with expertise in setting up social enterprises. We need civic and business leaders to create a narrative of change within anchor organisations. There is space for all sorts to come together so communities, and those within them, can deliver outcomes that have positive impacts on people’s lives.

What is community wealth building?

Community wealth building is a “local economic development strategy focused on building collaborative, inclusive, sustainable, and democratically controlled local economies[1].”  Or more simply it is about finding ways to keep money in local economies and not in the hands of investors with interest in the profit and not in the place or the people.

There is a whole movement that has been set up around this and different examples of how it can work can be seen nationally and internationally, Scotland even has a minister for this in the Scottish government. It is about a way to link jobs and wealth and skills so that communities can build them all; it is about working together and bringing work back into the realms of the commons so that it is of the people and for the people. It is a way to promote cooperative working and mutual aid, to foster enterprises that are truly powerful and to stop profit and return on investment being the drivers. Social and individual good become the prize. It is not about how much profit can be made, but how many local jobs are created. It is not about the lowest priced service and the race to the bottom, but about real living wages and fair division of the benefits of labour. It is not about temporary gig culture, but meaningful jobs with a future and a way of progressing.

What is community power?

This is about giving communities real power and the resources to make real change. It is about smaller central government and devolution of budgets, it is not necessarily about less government or reduced spending. It is not about consultation and short-term projects but has to be long term, sustainable change. It is also not about community councils that are talking shops or that produce reports, it is about giving people the collective power to change legislation locally. In some areas it may be about devolving more power (and more budgets) to parish councils, but these councils have to find ways to become more reflective of the whole community. It may be giving power over the things that are important to different communities of interest, to young people or to families. It must be about building consensus and community ownership and not creating divides and discord.

In some places it might be about power moving to community anchor organisations that are rooted in their community these could be new or existing groups who will take on the upkeep of an area and provide spaces and services that the population need. There will not be a single way of doing things but all will involve people collaborating and agreeing on a way forward. This does not mean everyone will be happy with every decision, but it will mean that everyone has had the chance to make their point, and that there has been discussion and debate.

What can we do to build community wealth?

The first thing to realise is that we are not alone. All around the country and indeed the world, people are looking at how wealth and power can be vested into communities to reduce inequality. There are concrete examples of how differences can be embedded, and changes made to work, and whilst not everything will work in our communities, we have to take heart and ensure we take our first step.

We need to start to talk to communities and start to engage with them. It is not enough for the great and the good, or the academic, or the enlightened to sit and talk about this. We must get into the communities. We must engage with people. This will mean good old fashioned community development. It will mean setting up long term projects (nothing less than 5 years). It will mean us getting political and helping others to become political as we will eventually need things to change at local, and national government level.

We need to work with and influence some of the anchor organisations in the area to get them to change how they procure services and contract work. This will include big local businesses, local councils, the NHS and universities to name but a few. If these organisations are able to change and create a market for community enterprise, for co-ops and for socially responsible firms then people will see that there is a point in engaging and setting these up. These organisations have to offer more than warm words. It may mean that initial costs are higher but that this is not the deciding factor in looking at who will deliver a service. It might be about ensuring you are a living wage accredited organisation. It might be less about competitive tendering and more about compassionate tendering. It might be about truly embedding social value in all you and not just nodding occasionally in its direction.

By taking this two-pronged approach to working with communities and businesses we will develop both the customers and the suppliers for new ways of working. It will then be about looking at how these can be married up, what we need to do to make this happen, and ultimately how we develop community owned organisations that can deliver required services, and will invest in the people and places they are grounded in.

What about community power?

Since the days of the partitioning of common lands, communities and individuals have been losing out to business and the state. If we are going to redress this, we have to look at what the people can take back. This must be more than ‘community rights to acquire’ when communities get to take over what no one else values. We need to find ways that will get people engaged in their community and passionate about making it better. This will mean we have to get people angry and political if we want them to take charge of changes.

Our society is getting more unequal in income, in health outcomes, and in education. Institutions that were once available to the people have been disappearing as libraries and children’s centres close, as playing fields are sold off, and as everything from schools, to trains and buses, to utility companies are privatised. To restore equality, we need to find ways that communities can take back some control.

The pandemic showed what communities can achieve, where government dragged its feet or struggled to adapt, communities acted. You can find out more from the Support Cambridgeshire research on the pandemic. People came together to deliver services, to help people in need, and to save lives.

Now is the time to put our trust in communities but we need to find the vehicles for this, and they will be different for different communities. If we are going to hold citizen assemblies, they must be given the power to force change in legislation otherwise they are an interesting report. If we are going to hand power to resident associations it has to come with the resources to make the changes agreed, otherwise it was an interesting consultation. If we are going to ask parish councils to take on more responsibility, they need to have the devolved powers to decide and act, otherwise it is simply a talking shop.

Whatever route we take to put power back into the hands of communities we need to ensure that they are representative and that all voices are given an equal weight. Work will need to be done to facilitate engagement and to mediate consensus. There may be a few quick wins, but this has to be a long-term project that will see community power embedded into the countries decision making processes.

Now is a good time to start to make changes and to build consensus and connections that help to answer some of the big questions facing the world. These solutions will not solve everything on their own but the power of people coming together has always driven change. Communities and the individuals and groups that exist in them have demonstrated their ability to step up, and it is about time they were given opportunities to do more to address the issues they are facing. As Margaret Mead said

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


[1] Community wealth building, Guinan and O’Neill