Volunteering for everyone – Overcoming barriers

No one should be excluded from taking part in fulfilling volunteering opportunities because of their past, according to the project manager of community recovery group Jigsaw.

Brian Lewis said members of the group had benefited from a host of volunteering opportunities over the last three years – both individually and as a team – following referrals from CVSC.

Jigsaw was created to help anyone with a background of addiction, poor mental health, or experience of the criminal justice system to move on with their lives. Members have recently enjoyed important volunteering roles with events like the Colwyn Bay St David’s Day Parade and Forties Festival, Llandudno’s Victorian Extravaganza, Prom Extra, and events at Eirias Park. They have also given their time for their community at St Paul’s Church Gardens and to fundraise alongside Marie Curie.

Brian said the group were keen to break down barriers to their reintegration into the community.

“Many barriers are self-imposed, and include isolation, loneliness, and boredom, and our members are also likely to be unemployed or have housing issues,” he said. “But volunteering can readily overcome most of these obstacles. Volunteering in the community contributes to the well-being of Jigsaw members, helping them to overcome isolation, increase self-esteem, make new contacts and friends, and develop their lives in a positive manner. Jigsaw volunteers have not felt judged in any way.  They have felt supported whilst volunteering, and that they have made a real contribution to the community. Jigsaw’s aim is to focus on the future rather than the past, and to move away from criminality and addiction.  Volunteering is a powerful means to achieve this vital outcome.”

The group are very enthusiastic and keen to help the community, especially on weekends.  During the week, members follow a mutually-supportive, structured intervention programme, though this can include volunteering activities with sufficient notice.

Does your organisation involve volunteers?  Have you considered accommodating a group of volunteers like the members of Jigsaw?  Does your volunteering policy properly reflect equality and diversity?

If not, then please reconsider – as you and your organisation will be missing out on a large number of potential volunteers.

“Life issues should never be a barrier to accessing a volunteering opportunity and the chance to play a full part in our local communities,” CVSC volunteering manager Ceri Jones said. “A recent Volunteering Wales Network event provided an important reminder that the only legal requirement is an enhanced DBS check, plus a check against barring lists, for someone intending to undertake regulated activity. CVSC can assist you with risk assessment documents, recruitment and involvement of ex-offenders, and provide you with sources of information and guidance.  We are only a phone call away.”

For further information on any matters relating to volunteering, contact the Volunteering Team at CVSC by emailing volunteering@cvsc.org.uk or calling 01492 534 091.

| Find out more about Jigsaw by visiting www.thejigsawgroup.org.uk or calling 01492 523 042.

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