A big cheer for our Cornwall volunteers!

Brian Smith from Volunteer Cornwall looks at the work this organisation carries out around the county.

Here’s to our Volunteers!

Brian Smith from Volunteer Cornwall looks at the work this organisation carries out around the county.

Volunteer Cornwall was established in 1978 to help disadvantaged groups within Cornwall through volunteering and to encourage people to be active in their community, an aim the county-wide charity still has today. Cornwall has the highest proportion of volunteering in the country - in the last survey, 32.3% of people volunteered on average once a month over the year.

Originally based in Truro, the charity has developed and grown to become a Duchy-wide organisation that has a diverse range of projects that are targeted to help individuals and communities across Cornwall.

One of the group’s key challenges in Cornwall involves transport and Volunteer Cornwall provides several schemes of its own, as well as a range of support, training and advice services for Community Groups and other Community Transport organisations. For example our Community Car Scheme, which in place since the company set up, provides a year-round service of volunteer drivers, who drive their own cars, for individuals, community groups and organisations who are unable to access public or private transport.

In addition to this, Volunteer Cornwall manages Truro’s own Shopmobility Scheme, which provides mobility equipment for hire to those with temporary mobility (for example a broken leg), or permanent restricted mobility, promoting equal access within the city centre and encouraging independence. Alongside the Community Car Scheme, a new Accessible Vehicle Project based in Bude, and a Minibus Driver Scheme is also available.

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A further initiative is VIVA (Volunteering in Vulnerable Adults.) Brian says: “Working with Cornwall Adult Care and Support, VIVA focuses on people with physical, mental, learning or sensory disabilities and long-term illness. We find welcoming, fun and meaningful volunteering opportunities for people with the support of a mentor, the aim is to make volunteering accessible to all and improve the quality of life of the volunteer and support integration within communities.”

Of course, some problems require an immediate solution and for these situations, Volunteer Cornwall has set up Winter Friends and Last Minute Heroes. Winter Friends, born from Snow, Flood and Flu Friends, is a group of local volunteers available at short notice in the bad weather or in extreme situations. It provides a range of services including transporting care workers, food or medication to isolated residents, as well as checking up on them, and transporting people to urgent appointments that do not require NHS transport. Last Minute Heroes is a group of volunteers who are on stand-by to help community groups where they need a few extra pairs of hands temporarily, or at very short notice.

Volunteer Cornwall is also involved in helping unemployed isolated, hard to reach or disengaged families back into the workplace through training and mentoring, and is a lead partner of the Truro Wellbeing Centre, which acts a hub of information for people living and working within the Truro area.

A new project is the Cornwall Time Bank that allows volunteers to swop skills with each other on an ‘hour for an hour’ basis.  Brian explains: “For example, you could offer two hours of baking and in return receive one hour of gardening and one hour of DIY. There are currently Time Banks in St Austell, Bodmin, Liskeard, Newquay, Truro, Hayle and Pool.”

Brian adds: “Without volunteers, our communities would struggle to function. The regular gift of their time is one that we can never thank them enough for. Volunteering provides benefit not only to those the schemes helps, but also to the volunteer, as they are able to put something back into their local community, gain new skills and confidence, and through our programmes, access training and support.”

He continues: “With this in mind we hold an annual Cornwall Celebrates Volunteering ceremony to highlight the significant contributions that volunteers make within the Duchy. This year’s nominations are now open. If you know of any volunteers who have done something exceptional this year, why not contact your local volunteer centre or visit our website for a nomination form.”

The group’s Volunteer of the Year for 2010 was Kelvin Pennington, who managed to change his life prospects after being involved with the Criminal Justice System. He was instrumental in writing a funding application and working with the Youth Cornwall Outreach project. The project had workshops on a range of topics including Crime Prevention, Homelessness and Drug Awareness to help other young people. One of the outcomes was the setting up of the Hendra Skate competition with over 800 people attending the event.

Kelvin has gained further qualifications and was, at the time of his nomination, commencing the Advance Apprenticeship in Youth Work. He now volunteers with homeless under19 year olds, delivering one-to-one mentoring support.

Volunteer Cornwall, and the thousands of volunteers in the Duchy, aims to continue to be on hand to help local communities develop their own solutions to improve the standard of living for all. �•

For further information visit: volunteercornwall.org.uk