The Heart of Jersey Hospice Care: Supporting our volunteers through COVID-19 and beyond
Keeping in touch
Our volunteers are at the very heart of Jersey Hospice Care and having to stand them down from duty due to Covid-19 was a very sad day indeed. We knew that at some point in the future, we didn’t know when, but we knew for sure that we would rely on our volunteers once again. During lockdown and beyond we needed to keep them on-board and the key to that was keeping them informed, letting them know on a personal level that we genuinely cared and valued each and every one of them. There was a huge sense of responsibility to reach out, checking on their well-being, and seeing if there was anything that we could do to offer any support. We held zoom coffee mornings, kept in contact using Facebook and other social media platforms, and of course by giving them a quick well-being call on the telephone.
With social distancing and for some, weeks of staying home and not seeing anyone outside of their household, warm personal communication has become more important. I learned early on in my role that running a successful volunteer service is not about administration or being able to produce multiple rotas or even management information. These things are important of course, but the key to success is getting volunteers engaged with the organisation, giving them that sense of belonging and purpose, helping them understand where they ‘fit’, and how their support really does make that difference to people’s lives. The only way to achieve this was to be visible, getting to know volunteers, really know them, keeping them motivated and loyal by continually telling them, ‘and to be fair’ anyone who would listen! just how important they are.
Look at a snippet of the hours donated in 2019!
Bringing them back
A large percentage of our volunteers are people who are at, nearing or even significantly over retirement age. Many live alone, many have family, but who live off Island, some have health issues putting them in the vulnerable category. Understandably some volunteers took the decision to step back. I suspect it was a tough personal choice for many and for some a necessary decision. For most, this will only be temporary, because they or their immediate family are vulnerable and need to ‘shield’. Others have chosen to take a break for specific coronavirus-related health reasons, and for some they are balancing caring responsibilities for family members. However, for some volunteers they are simply scared and we get it. This set of scenarios presented a range of challenges as we began to bring volunteers back into the fold. How could we bring them back? Who would and could come back? How could we get their trust to do this safely? Not quite as easy as it sounds.
We started by speaking to our retail volunteers to find out who would be interested in returning. This gave us an initial idea of numbers. We then went out to all volunteers and thankfully we had enough to enable us to operate once again. Each person was required to complete a health declaration. This felt a bit alien and intrusive to start with, but in a world where nothing is normal, we knew it was absolutely the right thing to do. We wrote very detailed working instructions for every role and made sure that each volunteer received a copy and knew what was required of them. Nothing was glossed over or rose tinted; we were completely transparent in all of our operations. Our key objective was to make sure volunteers felt safe but also understood the risks.
After the reopening of our retail fundraising shop, we have welcomed over 50 new volunteers into the service. They can be seen helping alongside our existing teams in the gardens, on weekend reception, in administration, accounts and of course our shop sorting areas, this is great news for Hospice! One of the exciting facts is that more and more youngsters are looking to give something back, has the pandemic changed the mindset of the younger generation?
With all this great news, one of my new objectives, post covid-19 is to maintain contact with the volunteers who are still unable to return. Setting myself a challenge of speaking to at least 5 of them every day, simply to check on their well being, I know how much this is appreciated. By making our volunteers feel valued and being there to listen, when they need a chat, means that in time, hopefully in the not too distant future, we can rely upon them, or hopefully most of them to come back and continue to support Hospice as it goes from strength to strength.
Loraine Fulton – Volunteers Manager