The difference we make and how you can help
For almost 50 years Volunteer Edinburgh has been supporting people and communities in Edinburgh. We connect people to volunteering, helping them make a difference both in their community and in their own life.
We believe that everyone has the right to offer their time to volunteer and we have specialist programs which enable people to participate who may otherwise be excluded through mental ill health, a history of offending or through economic disadvantage.
We also provide dedicated, specialist support to people wishing to use volunteering to improve their paid employment prospects and we have a long established relationship with NHS Lothian, providing specialist volunteering services to patients and the public at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital where in 2019/2020 we delivered 6,500 hours of volunteering.
At the start of the global pandemic Volunteer Edinburgh responded quickly, recruiting over 500 fantastic Community Taskforce Volunteers who have been supporting vulnerable people across the city throughout the past year. You can find out more about what we are doing and its impact below.
Volunteer Edinburgh reacted quickly to support people in our community during the pandemic. We directly recruited 528 Community Taskforce Volunteers, developing a robust on boarding process, suited to remote recruitment, and we are deploying these volunteers all across the city, where they are most needed.
Referrals come from individuals, from family members (often where the family is geographically distant), Social Care Direct, front line health professionals and other statutory and third sector partners.
To date our Community Taskforce Volunteers have undertaken over 5,200 tasks to support vulnerable and isolated people impacted by the pandemic. We’ve also supported NHS and HSCP colleagues deploying volunteers at 640 shifts in Edinburgh’s flu clinic and so far we’ve deployed volunteers into 1,698 shifts (and counting every day) supporting Covid vaccination centres in the city.
While much of the support given by CTVs is truly one-off, some recipients have more complex needs, the CTV programme has proven effective at identifying individuals in need of further support and being able to provide that support or refer on to appropriate statutory or third sector services.
My first experience of The Royal Edinburgh Hospital was through the Volunteering Hub. I was just beginning my journey transitioning from corporate sales to a career in psychology, and I was extremely excited and slightly apprehensive. When I had applied to The University of Edinburgh, we were given access to a lot of different resources and documents about the Psychology of Mental Health Conversion course and information about the experience required to attempt the lengthy process of applying for the doctorate in clinical psychology.
One of the most important documents that I was to receive, was the lengthy booklet entitled “Gaining relevant experience,” and from the short blurb about the Volunteer Hub, I knew that I wanted to contact the service and enquire about volunteering opportunities.
After successfully passing an informal interview, and completing the necessary checks I was eager to start volunteering. Having previously volunteered within different sectors, and also within the NHS, I was expecting a similar level of training experience. A training that focusses on the important legislation, policies and regulations but perhaps falls short of the experience and skills required for the role.
One of the most exciting aspects of the Volunteer Hub is the ability to continually learn and develop your own skills and knowledge. Within my first weeks of joining the service, I had attended training on Boundaries and Communication and Making Conversation in the Royal Edinburgh. The skills that I learnt in those early sessions proved fundamental in developing my future skills, ambitions and understanding of my role as a practitioner working within mental health.
One of the key hubs of The Royal Edinburgh Hospital is the Library. Most volunteers start their volunteering journey in the library, and within the sessions you are able to interact and meet with other volunteers as well as current and previous patients. The Library sessions gave me an opportunity to really learn and reflect on my ambitions of becoming a Clinical Psychologist. Was I going to be well suited to this career, could I adapt my communication effectively, could I support individuals and also do I enjoy working with people?
After the first session of playing games and reading books, I had already learnt so much about myself. The Library Volunteer Hub felt like home, and I knew this was a familiar sentiment shared by everyone who had experienced the Library.
Supporting Musical Jam, Robert Fergusson Brain Injury:
Soon after starting volunteering, I was asked whether I would like to support a service user in the brain injury unit during their music jam sessions. I was really excited by this opportunity, and whilst I was fairly apprehensive, I was given support by Kate and Angela at the Volunteer Hub to support with my transition.
A particularly emotive memory was when I assisted a service user to sing a rendition of “Angels” by Robbie Williams, and when I think about my time volunteering it is often a memory I return to. Utilising my training and understanding of behaviour, such as the role of amplifiers, really helped me to navigate my role within the sessions and units.
Becoming a Clinical Support Worker:
With the onset of the pandemic, I decided that I wanted to further my experience and knowledge of working with people within mental health. Utilising my training and experience gained from the Volunteer Hub, I was able to secure a position as a clinical support worker within a psychiatric rehabilitation ward at The Royal Edinburgh.
I sought reassurance from the team at the Volunteer Hub. I shared my excitement and apprehensions about the role and my suitability, I was reminded that their door would always be open, and it always was.
One of the most rewarding aspects of working as a clinical support worker was being able to see the impact of the Volunteering Hub within the patient community. On my first week in the ward I was introduced to photos of therapets, listened to DJ sets, shown adverts and poems, that were all cultivated during volunteer sessions.
In that moment it was obvious to me how important the volunteer hub is for the recovery and rehabilitation of patients. How integral the library is to the community of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, and how much happiness and purpose is derived from the feeling of belonging. The mutual value that the volunteers and patients gain from the Volunteer Hub is incredibly unique and specific, it feels like we are part of a very special community.
As an aspiring clinical psychologist, another exciting facet of the Volunteer Hub is the focus on gaining further experience and broadening your personal skills. I was fortunate enough to have been contacted by Kate and asked whether I would be interested in applying for an Honorary Assistant Psychologist position at Veterans First. After eagerly applying and interviewing, I was given the opportunity to start volunteering at Veterans First two days a week.
One of the key aspects I had learnt from my training and experience of the Volunteer Hub, was the ability to adapt my communication skills to support individuals. This skill was fundamental in my role of supporting Veterans and working with people who were apprehensive about meeting new people. Whilst I was volunteering and working at the Royal Edinburgh, I would often return to the library for a chat and a cup of tea. The support and validation I have received from the Volunteer team has always been invaluable, and I often think how fortunate I am to have met such wonderful people.
Over a year on from my first experience of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, I can now look back at how far I have come in my personal and professional life, and how key the Volunteer Hub has been to my journey.
Next week I commence my position at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital working with older adults, and I have no doubt that my experience of the Volunteer Hub has made this possible.
I first met Gael when she was a student nurse. I was a key worker in a Mental Health Day Unit and she was my first student. I was delighted when she applied for and secured a role alongside me in the team at what was the Henderson Day Unit at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital and we soon became close friends.
Gael loved art and prior to her career in nursing she proudly secured an honours degree in art history from St Andrews university. Gael’s achievements were all the more impressive because as a teenager she herself had been an inpatient at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Gael struggled with depression, alcohol and anorexia throughout her adult life until it sadly took her at the age of 43.
Despite this Gael was an extremely hardworking, compassionate, caring nurse. She was a great team player and fun to be around. She was a complex person, fiercely independent and stubborn to boot but one of life’s angels giving and generous to the end. Of course with Gael came Milly, her cat and constant companion. But what also came with her was her love of art, reading and travel.
Closer to home Gael had a passion for volunteering and was completely behind me when I jumped ship to go and work at Volunteer Edinburgh. She became a trusted referrer and an energetic ambassador of volunteering to her clients and colleagues. Her sales pitch for the benefits of volunteering was word perfect and couldn't be matched.
When Volunteer Edinburgh and CAMHS piloted WAVE a bespoke pre volunteering project for young people who were isolated and disengaged as a result of living with mental health problems it was Gael who worked her magic on a client who like her had been an inpatient at CAMHS and had gone on to volunteer and then secure paid work as a result of that volunteering to become our first WAVE Volunteer Ambassador.
Gael very reluctantly had to stop working due to her mental health. She was devasted. Despite deteriorating health both mentally and physically she continued to volunteer. Turning her focus to supporting isolated older people and animal welfare until she eventually said good bye to this world on the 2nd July 2011.
For Volunteer Edinburgh to then receive a monetary donation from Gail after she died was typical of her. What else could we do with the money but continue her legacy and fund future WAVE courses and 10 years on it seems only apt to celebrate the memory of Gael with this dedication.
From our continued follow up of the young people participating 60% have gone on to further volunteering; 60% have reported increased confidence in social situations and 30% have said it has helped them decide what to do in the future. As for the first Volunteer Ambassador....she went on to graduate from Edinburgh College of Arts and secure work at a local media company. She always said it was down to Gael encouraging her to talk about her volunteering at the WAVE course that helped her turn a corner and start to move forward with her life.
And to quote another WAVE participant:
"I got ill. I closed myself off, fell out with my friends and really started to hate school. By the end of the year my mum withdrew me from school altogether and I decided I couldn’t go back there. I was off school for 6 months before my psychologist referred me to WAVE; I was interested in doing some volunteering and thought WAVE would be a really good first step. It worked out very well for me.
As I had been ill and had a bad time at school my confidence and self esteem were low and I hadn’t been in a social environment for a while. WAVE boosted my confidence and helped me make new friends; it was easier as we had all had similar experiences as inpatients or outpatients of the hospital and understood each other. Sometimes school can be competitive and it sets people against each other. WAVE wasn’t like that, the programme’s team building elements and working together encouraged us to bond and I still keep in touch with the people now.
The programme was stress free and flexible and let you try out things you thought you might like for short periods of time. This made it achievable and let you build your confidence in different areas. At the end of the programme we looked at why we liked or didn’t like different experiences and what we could do next. My favourite volunteering role was with Out of the Blue cafe and I enjoyed it because it was customer facing, I got to work with lots of people.
When the programme was finished the Volunteer Centre helped me find a customer facing role as a steward at the Mela festival. I loved it, it was interesting, everyone was very friendly and it really didn’t feel like work at all! When the festival was finished we looked for a long term opportunity and I am now volunteering as an events assistant at Children First helping plan things like Ceilidhs. I have also started back at school. It is a different school and WAVE definitely helped me get there. It was like a trial run for meeting new people, I proved I could go into a new place and be who I wanted to be. It really helped me move forward."
We will always be extremely grateful to Gael’s family and the trustees of her estate for this donation, which has helped us meet the costs of running …....WAVE courses and support …....young people to experience the value of volunteering for themselves. What a tremendous legacy Gael has left behind.
It often makes me wonder if something like this had been available when Gael first had contact with the services maybe things would have turned out very differently for her....
If you would like to support our work there are two options available. You can either donate via JustGiving or make a direct donation using a Credit or Debit card via Stripe. Further details of each are provided below.
Donate via JustGiving
Please click on the donate button below and you will be redirected to our JustGiving page where you can make your donation. To make your donation go further you can add Gift Aid.
Donate using a Credit or Debit Card via Stripe
Please click on the donate button below to open a secure Stripe form where you can make your donation. And make your donation go further by completing a Gift Aid Declaration.