The Volunteer Centre Wiltshire Mentor Supported Volunteering Project has helped numerous people with additional support needs get into volunteering since the pilot project’s launch last year.
Research undertaken by Volunteer Centre Wiltshire (part of local charity DEVELOP Enhancing Community Support) found that the group of people most likely to enquire about volunteering is those people who have additional needs.
To help this group of people Volunteer Centre Wiltshire set up the Mentor Supported Volunteering (MSV) service as a pilot project in April 2012.
As the project comes to an end we are pleased to announce that 12 people have now been placed into volunteering opportunities across Wiltshire.
Chief Executive Officer of DEVELOP, Janice Fortune, created the program to “show everyone (no matter who they are or what abilities they have) that they can volunteer and make a difference in their local communities. We wanted to increase self-esteem and embed a sense of community and belonging.”
The aim of the project was to increase the number of people with additional support needs volunteering in Wiltshire. These included people who experience one (or more) of the following: Learning, sensory or physical disability, young people (18-24) or a young person who is Not in Employment, Education or Training, Older people (65+) or recently retired or long term unemployed (6 months plus). The project successfully matched 13 Mentors with Mentees.
Prospective mentors completed a rigorous application process followed by structured training on how to be mentor to a person with additional support needs. In total Volunteer Centre Wiltshire spent 234 hours providing training to our mentors, this was as well as monthly mentor workshops.
The benefits of the program weren’t limited to just the mentees; the monthly workshops meant mentors could come along and learn additional skills to help them support their mentee. Topics included “Effects of Long term unemployment”, “Recognising deteriorating mental health”, “lone working”, and many more.
The mentors were encouraged to hold regular meetings with their mentee and in total 87 sessions were held between mentors and mentees
“We always start by making sure the mentees know we are here to help them” said Simone Lord, Volunteer Centre Manager, “we wanted the mentors to use their training provided by Volunteer Centre Wiltshire to increase the skills, confidence, and self-esteem of the people they were mentoring. We are so pleased that 12 of the mentees have now been placed into volunteering opportunities, something which they never would have done before their interaction with the project.”
As well as the mentor training, Volunteer Centre Wiltshire also held some very successful workshops for the mentees, which were based around identifying strengths and learning interviewing skills. One of the mentees said after the workshop “I have more confidence to deal with an interview after taking part in this workshop.”
Volunteer Centre Wiltshire have also been lucky to work with local businesses for this project and in particular would like to thank Amey for its support. Public services company Amey kindly donated Personal Protective Equipment to the MSV project, including shoes and wet weather gear. This equipment was given to one of our mentees, which has enabled them to carry out their gardening volunteering in all weathers.
Amey’s donation to Volunteer Centre Wiltshire came about from its involvement with WREN (Wiltshire Responsible Employer Network), which is chaired by Amey’s business development manager Pieter Johnson, and its Corporate Community Engagement initiative. This helps companies operating in Wiltshire engage with and support local charities and community groups, while at the same time developing their own business and people.
As the pilot project came to an end, Volunteer Centre Wiltshire held a special event to say ‘thank you ‘ to the mentors for their contribution. The Volunteer Centre manager was pleased to announce that they had received news that they were successful in achieving accreditation from the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation and could now bear the quality mark in delivering an Approved Provider Standard.
The Mentors were awarded certificates and enjoyed listening to speakers from the Probation Trust and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust who also attended to offer information about other mentoring projects in Wiltshire.
Overall the project successfully fulfilled its aims by increasing the confidence and skills of the mentees and some of the mentees were able to find their own volunteering placements, thanks simply to their taking part in the project
Many of the mentees have thanked the project, and especially their mentors for the support during the last few months.
Simone said “Some of the mentees now have increased self-awareness and knowledge and now know better what they need and do not need, for example whether or not they need a mentor in future as well as an increased sense of realism.”
As a pilot project with time limited funding the Mentor Supported Volunteering project has now come to end, but moving forward Volunteer Centre Wiltshire will be looking at ways that we can still provide to those with additional support needs.
We welcome anyone who would like to volunteer, but perhaps doesn’t know where to start, to contact us on 0845 521 6224 or visit the website at www.volunteercentrewiltshire.org.uk.
Pictured, top: James Trotter, Business Development Director at Amey and Grant Hayward, Development Worker at DEVELOP Enhancing Community Support;
Bottom: Volunteer Mentors – Mentor Supported Volunteering, Volunteer Centre Wiltshire