Volunteer report 2012
End of year report 2012
Giving connects two people, the giver and the receiver, and this connection gives birth to a new sense of belonging The Volunteer programme within Cheeverstown The volunteer programme has continued to develop over this year, with still high levels of interest of people wanting to volunteer for Cheeverstown. There is a range of reasons as to why people want to volunteer from having more free time, early retirement or unemployment or people just wanting to “give some thing back”. Others are thinking of a career change and try volunteering as a way of testing the water, to see if it’s right for them. People who are going through college, or have finished a college course in a particular field and while they can’t find work, are looking to volunteer to put the theory into practice and gain valuable experience. Projects carried out during the year
“A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles” “One to one” This has perhaps, for me been the most rewarding aspect of the volunteer programme. The feedback from the person, volunteer, family members and staff has all been very positive. The sense that people even with significant disabilities are able to build reciprocal relationships is evident by the frequency and length of these relationships over the last two / three years, and in some way demonstrates the intrinsic value of real connections with people, as opposed to just support. Volunteers have been able to see the real person behind just the label. I feel this is an area that people with learning disabilities still have limited access to, the opportunity to build lasting friendships, and to have people other than just paid staff in their lives is perhaps much more important then we realise. I hope to focus more volunteers on to this valuable aspect in 2013. The more we can expand our social networks the safer, happier and healthily everybody becomes.
Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?' Gardening volunteers report –The year 2012 was our busiest year yet, as well as our regular work in the community houses we undertook to renovate the garden in Beeches. Here in conjunction with Peter Hosford we managed to “appropriate” enough plants materials and furniture to transform the garden into a beautiful sensory area. The highlights of which are the “water feature” and the “wild flower garden”. This took several weeks of very hard work but one of the most satisfying parts of volunteering is to see the service users and the staff enjoying the fruits of your labour. We also managed to get around to the long suffering people in Dunmore where, with the help of machinery donated by SWAN HIRE ,we managed to transform a wilderness into a wheelchair friendly area with a patio dining area, lawns and flower beds. The front and backs of Hillcrest 2 and 3 were also renovated, with overgrown trees removed and once again a small patio/seating area put on the sunny side of the Hillcrest 3 back garden In 2013 although our primary objective is to help in the community houses we hope to refurbish the gardens in the children’s houses in Ballycullen and Orwell and to get a volunteer to help renew and maintain the children’s garden at the back of the school. Our policy is that we will not renovate a garden until we have a gardening volunteer to maintain it, since obviously the garden very quickly reverts to a wilderness However we are always looking for volunteers, no specific expertise is needed, the time is at your discretion and tools etc will be provided. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the above for giving so much of their time in this ongoing work .They were ably assisted on the “big Jobs” by Peter Nolan, Paul Buckley , Anton and Pat Cullen. We have been very successful in “acquiring” plants, expertise, materials and machinery so to our benefactors particularly Swan Hire, Super Value Portarlington, House of Tiles and Landscape Depot Kiltipper our heartfelt thanks. To Tim Ryan for his patience and knowledge and his crew for their continuing help, support with anything we need to keep going, thanks and keep it going, finally Gerry without your support and encouragement none of this would be possible. Joe McLoughlin
Go for life
Three people from Chess having attended a “Go for life” training day in passive exercise for older people last year, are now running their own “Go for life” exercise group every Thursday morning for the past six months, at a local day centre for older people in Tallaght, sharing their skills, meeting new people, helping others and having fun, Social Capital in a nutshell! Music Monday’s – Once a month a group from Elm House and a few volunteers have been supporting a sing-a-long group within a local day centre for older people in Tallaght. It provides an opportunity for people to sing, bang a drum or just listen.
How we spend our day, is in fact how we spend our life! Day & nightâ€™s out- Volunteers have been supporting groups of friends to go out mainly on Friday nights. People choose where and with whom they want to go, from cinema & Pizza to a karaoke club in town. What makes for better days? Having fun with friends
Going at your own pace
Learning new skills & doing something worthwhile
Admin Volunteers- We now have 9 admin volunteers who are supporting staff in carrying out different admin duties, from filing, photocopying to data in-putting. Volunteer driver- We have two regular volunteers who support staff by driving clients and staff to different activities each week Hill walking Saturdayâ€™s during the year-come rain or shine- a small group of volunteers have been supporting a monthly hill walking group. Walking mainly in the Wicklow mountains area, people have found it challenging at times but as always the view from the top is wonderful!
Volunteers as ambassadors for Cheeverstown- It is important to realise that that volunteers donâ€™t just give their time, skills and commitment to support people within Cheeverstown, but they also can act as valuable ambassadors to the wider community at large, promoting the work we do, and sharing positive experiences about Cheeverstown to the people they meet. In some ways this is the best form of marketing, because it can positively influence a wide range of social networks. Recruitment & Retention â€“The H.R department have continued to support the volunteer programme with reference checking and garda vetting, which at times is a slow and laborious process but an important part of ensuring we keep people safe, and sends a clear message that we have systems and processes in-line with best practice. The new HIQA standards require three references for all volunteers and this has meant extra work for the H.R team, their continued support is much appreciated. Retention of volunteers- We have managed to have good retention of volunteers with over 60% who have been volunteering with us for over three years. The main reasons some have left is moving away or aboard for work, going back to college in other parts of Ireland or going to the U.K. The other main reason people moved on was due to taking up full-time work.
Plans for 2013
As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it. Social capital Projects – The Plans for 2013 is to use volunteers more strategically i.e. to focus more on “one to one” goals with individuals and also to target people who have little or no social capital and to work at building sustainable social capital links with individuals. Support meetings / volunteer feedback sessions- During 2012 volunteers were invited to attend a volunteer lunch once a month. My plan for 2013 is to make this more structured, arranging evening meetings and other times that best suit the volunteers. Targeted recruitment of new volunteers- During the next year, I hope to target recruitment in key areas. For example we have much greater level of female volunteers to male. Younger volunteers in the 20 – 30 age range would be helpful, so to the older person, who may be retired and hasn’t volunteer in the past. Monitoring and safe practice- This is an area we started this year to ensure we have systems in-place to monitor how the volunteers are working out in practice, we introduced a short daily log to record volunteer in-put, Paula Coughlan has been a key player in introducing this within the different areas, we still have some way to go to ensuring that it is imbedded into the daily plans within individual units and centres. Volunteer Newsletter- Continue with monthly newsletter to volunteers, general feedback from volunteers is that they like receiving the newsletter, as one volunteer said, “It helps me feel connected to Cheeverstown, and the wider organisation”. Volunteer training - To continue to provide training to volunteers during the year, specifically on issues of importance to them. Also to offer the wider staff training to volunteers who are available to attend training during the day.
“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
Feedback from Volunteers A brief questionnaire was sent out to volunteers asking for feedback on their experience of being a volunteer, and what it has meant to them. Here are the comments we received. What have you enjoyed about volunteering for Cheeverstown? The experience is fun and hugely rewarding. It only takes a few hours per week. It is nice to be able to make a difference to someone’s life. It is also remarkable how we have become part of the Tuesday regulars in the pub and are acknowledged by other punters that way. This makes it even more enjoyable for both of us. With regards to Cheeverstown, I enjoy the newsletters that are been send to me and the occasional meet up with other volunteers. I find it incredibly rewarding to volunteer with the clients in Cheeverstown - there is an immediacy of reaction/reward for any act as the guys react immediately to what you are doing for/with them. The client's innate honesty & lack of artifice/diplomacy challenges me to think of ways to interact with them in better ways which I enjoy. I have really enjoyed working in Cheeverstown over the past year. My view of disabilities have completely changed while working within Cheeverstown. A lot of people think disability and think a wheelchair but it's completely different and so broad I am now aware of the different disabilities. It is completely different learning about disabilities from a theory point of view and actually being in an environment working with the service users. Being a volunteer within Cheeverstown has given me so much and has totally changed my outlook when working within an environment where people rely on you for certain things. Everyone I have worked with in Cheeverstown has been a huge support and extremely helpful. I have learned many skills that I can put into practice in future professions. Overall I have completely enjoyed my experience working in Cheeverstown.
What changes would you like to make, that would improve the volunteering experience? I have been volunteering for a number of years now and we have a good routine. I am quite happy with the arrangement as it is. It is good to have a contact person so in case there is a problem/ I have a question; it is clear who I can go too. I think a lot of people would like to get involved or do more but are unsure how to do this - for those who can only do evening or weekend volunteering there does not seem to be an overall contact that facilitates both the on-site/in-house working day service versus the sports/dancing/artwork evening/weekend activities that are either directly organised by Cheeverstown or those groups that merely use the Cheeverstown facilities or clients who attend external groups/Special Olympics. If there was a "one-stop shop" that could direct queries relating to all the various activities (even if that be purely contact details for those groups) I think this potential resource could be tapped. Has being a volunteer changed your view of people with disabilities? It has made me more humble and grateful for what I am able to do and have. Has is changed your view of the support services people receive? Before volunteering I had only a limited experience with support services for people with disabilities. I never knew how much was involved and how each service user is different. What is clear to me is that there are a great number of people with a genuine interest in caring for others working in Cheeverstown. I believe my volunteering experience has more changed my perception of those who care for them rather than my view of people with disabilities - I think I had, through family & friends, a fairly good handle on dealing with some disabilities - what I did not realise was the endless patience, kindness & skills required to deal with the various disabilities found within Cheeverstown. Everybody reacts to situations differently but the professionalism, humanity & respect shown to the clients from everybody from the drivers, catering, SLT to the actual carers was amazing & now when I'm out & about, I find myself watching the people with the disabled more than I note the disabled to see how they are interacting with each other.
While I would imagine it must be very rewarding to work within this sector it is also extremely tough both mentally & physically. It takes a huge amount of patience, professionalism & dedication & I really do admire all of the staff for their unfailing cheerfulness when dealing with the clients whilst also dealing the current cutbacks & financial strain. For the families of the disabled I would imagine it must be even harder to care for their family members & the residential, day care & activities offered by Cheeverstown must be a Godsend for them. Given the on-going financial cutbacks this must be a very worrying & distressing time for both the families & carers of the disabled with the uncertainty & stress that they must now live with. Current volunteers 1 to 1 7
Day services 20
Residential community Admin
“A community without a place for everyone Really has a place for no-one” Conclusion The photo on the cover page of this report is the Ha’ penny Bridge in Dublin, why, because for me it represents two points. Firstly that people with learning disabilities are still largely isolated and marooned on an Island of segregation. It is often referred to as the “opportunity gap” which prevents people from joining-in with others - lack of information, access, supports, transport and segregated activities can all play their part in keeping people excluded. The second point is that volunteers can be the bridge which helps people to become more connected, included and valued. In Cheeverstown, we have seen the value of developing relationships with people who enable this to happen, in the lives of people who use our services. During 2012 we continued to attract more people who were interested in becoming volunteers. I think in terms of inclusion we still need to “dare to think small” - in other words inclusion works best one person at a time. I would like to see this year as a time to consolidate what we have, to ensure we manage this valuable resource and put in-place clear and agreed standards. We need to make the best use of the volunteers, that they are not seen as just unpaid staff, but a valuable resource that we need to use wisely.
The feedback from the volunteers about their experiences has been very positive; again I think we need to remember that volunteers can act as a powerful influence in how Cheeverstown is viewed by others, seeing them as advocates or valuable ambassadors to the wider community is an important point to keep in mind when dealing with volunteers. Plans for 2013 - We have a range of activities planned for 2013 that will hopefully build greater inclusion and stronger connections for everybody. The need to think strategically when planning how to best use our resources will continue to be challenging for all of us during 2013, but if we continue to think â€œpeople firstâ€? then our actions will reflect our mission statement. I would finally like to thank all the volunteers for their kindness, dedication, commitment and at times patience. Their continued support helps individuals to become more connected and in so doing builds a more inclusive community for everyone.
Gerry Oâ€™Connor December 2012