Richard has been CEO at Sense and Sense International since 2018. He shares his experiences of volunteering and why he thinks it’s so important.
Before Covid-19, volunteering participation in the UK had remained largely static over the last ten years. There wasn’t sufficient noise about the value of volunteering on volunteers, charities and the wider society. There was insufficient evidence about the impact of volunteering.
Since the pandemic, the community response has been exceptional. And there’s better understanding of the people around us, like the impact of loneliness on an older person, or that an adult with sensory impairments can struggle to get to their shops.
We can’t let that feeling go
If we want mass volunteering to become the norm, we need to start planning now. This means embracing new, flexible forms of volunteering and integrating them into all services and programmes developed by charities.
And if we want to get the best from our sector, we mustn’t forget to get the best out of our volunteers. Not everyone wants to be recognised or thanked – but recognition and saying thank you is so important.
Volunteering is incredibly powerful
As we start Volunteers Week, my views on volunteering have been heavily informed by my time as a volunteer for Sense. I recall at my first Sense holiday, how one of our holiday makers, Suzie had her first experience of the seaside in Bournemouth.
She felt the texture of the sand, the salty taste of the sea and the wind on her face. For her, these were new and powerfully stimulating experiences. After the time we spent at the seaside, Suzie went and sat in the lounge before dinner and she giggled and erupted into fits of laughter for more than 30 minutes recalling the enjoyment in her own personal world.
Often, volunteering means celebrating an individual’s very heightened personal experiences and particular methods of communication. And when we connect like that with another person, we reveal new capacities not just in them, but in ourselves.
Every time I volunteer I discover new personal strengths as I put others first, and this is a reminder of how I can make the most of these qualities in my day to day work.
Keeping the sense of community
We must never compromise on the values behind volunteering. Volunteering gives meaning and purpose and joy and a sense of community. We must always remember that.
We can sustain this feeling of shared and collective effort to help others in need. Communities that have come together in challenging times can continue to support one another as things get better again.
The more we support each other, the more we gain ourselves.
Become a Sense volunteer
Interested in volunteering for Sense? You could become a volunteer in one of in our charity shops, on Sense Holidays our even in our community fundraising team.