It is always a special time of year when we start the preparations for our volunteer celebration. But this year, the planning was suddenly not going to be as straightforward as usual. However, nothing was going to stop us from celebrating despite COVID-19!
Constantly working to break down barriers is one of the key things we are always working to achieve at Diversity Matters North West (DMNW). So, when faced with this issue, our staff team took to the internet and arranged the Volunteer Celebration to take place on Zoom. Technology has been something we have arranged training on in the past to support the community in searching for jobs, so we understood that this is sometimes an obstacle for our service users. But we were not going to let that stop us. The show had to go on – and so it did. We ended up with 54 attendees!
In her opening speech at the online event, DMNW’s Chair, Caroline Gregory, talked about the value of volunteers and reminded us all, that volunteers are not free, they are in fact priceless. She said to the volunteers:
“Never doubt how valuable you are. What you do, transforms lives! You are important to many people in lots of different ways: a friendly voice and a chance to talk. They may be small things, but what a difference they can make.”
Yin to our yang
At DMNW we are nothing without our volunteers. And at the celebration we heard many stories about the progress our volunteers have made, while they have been with us. And this progress is the essence of why we are still around, supporting the local community in Tameside. The progress our volunteers make, are a big part of what keeps us going and keeps us applying for, and getting, new funding. We are nothing without our volunteers and their progress, and for that, we are thankful. Given the ongoing pandemic, this year we even gave out special awards for our COVID heroes, who have made such a difference in the local community through this mayhem we’re finding ourselves in. We have had an influx of new volunteers during the pandemic, which we are so thankful for. And so many of the volunteers who have been with us for years have somehow managed to find the time and energy to keep volunteering throughout the pandemic too.
One of the many volunteers celebrated at the online event, Kulsum, who has been volunteering for DMNW for six years, was one of the volunteers who has taken on a new volunteering role during the pandemic. During her stint helping out at the local food bank, Kulsum feels that she has grown and built on her own confidence a lot.
Success stories like that of Kulsum, and many others that we heard about at the event, are the kind of successes that we at DMNW thrive on. It is not only an interdependent thing, it is also a great pleasure to see the local community flourish, as they start to take active roles in the local area.
We feel the importance of volunteers every day of our working lives at Diversity Matters North West, and it is something that helps us in our work, but also as people. We, as a staff and trustee team, are lifted by their stories, heartened by their commitment and joyful in our dealings with our volunteers. As our two Chief Officers, Rehana Begum and Gemma Gaskell, said at the event: “Being Chief Officers of Diversity Matters North West is not just a job, it is a privilege.”
We wish all of our volunteer award winners all the best of luck, and once again: thank you!