International Volunteer Day: Celebrating our volunteers

We celebrate diversity across our network of volunteers, and the difference people are making in their communities.
Man and woman looking at Healthwatch leaflets
Once you’ve helped one person, they can help another person. It’s not always about the masses
— Rose

International Volunteer Day (#IVD2020) is held each year on 5 December.

We want to use this as an opportunity to recognise the great effort and impact our volunteers have made during the pandemic.

We spoke to three Healthwatch volunteers about how their different experiences and backgrounds help them in their work to give people a voice and make a difference in their community.

  • Rose, 64, volunteers at Healthwatch Islington and cares for her 21-year granddaughter who has global learning disabilities.
  • Mark, 74, cares for his learning-disabled son, who is 35. Mark is also a Healthwatch Islington volunteer.
  • Charlene, 35, volunteers at Healthwatch Southend and has a long-term health condition.

Read about their experiences.

Why do you volunteer at Healthwatch?

 “I decided to get involved with Healthwatch in order to change things. I believe that if you want to change a service you have to bring your life experiences. If you want the service to work for you, you have to be involved in designing it.”

“Instead of playing the blame game we need to let each other know what makes things easier for people. It is about looking back at the full experience of using a care service and how it can be better delivered.”

- Rose

 “It seemed to me a valuable role in addressing the needs of Borough residents.”

- Mark

Yes, you really get involved at Healthwatch and play your part to work together with others.

- Charlene

What do your experiences or backgrounds bring to Healthwatch?

Rose shares how being a carer helps her in her role as a volunteer and how it’s important to have a diverse group of volunteers to allow for different cultural perspectives:

“Because of caring for my granddaughter, I have had many experiences with education, care services, benefits and other services speaking up for my granddaughter on her behalf. I have had to fight my own corner.”

“Being Black Caribbean, I can bring a cultural perspective. If I’m meeting people from my own culture, I can talk to them in a way that puts them at ease. I can get an instant rapport and show understanding. In my opinion this helps as it shows I’m listening to them from their perspective.”

“Whether it’s a first- or second-generation person, the way they look at expectations of care services can be different. In some cultures, some people will not want their parents or older relatives to live in a care home.”

As a carer, Mark understands the system both from a public and a professional perspective:

 “My caring responsibilities inform me about service delivery in the Borough on an individual family basis but also through feedback from other family carers.  I am able to relate to members of the public and professionals.”

“I do think as a member of a diverse team of volunteers working together, we bring a range of experience to Healthwatch which has been valuable.”

Charlene shares how her previous role has helped:

“When I was working as an underwriter in insurance it was a very high-pressured job. So once my background was understood I was given more responsibility as a volunteer. I find the role interesting, and it gives me freedom to be active again, to keep ticking.”

How has Healthwatch supported your needs?

“Volunteering at Healthwatch Islington is about learning new things whilst being supported to do so. Training is provided freely, and I can find courses I think would help me in my role. The team support me and other volunteers really well. As a carer, Healthwatch Islington pays for a paid carer to look after my granddaughter when I am doing my volunteering.”

- Rose

“I went from working full time to not working at all. I felt like I didn’t have a purpose. Healthwatch Southend staff are very understanding, especially Sharon who always gives me support. I’m never made to feel bad if I can’t do my usual four hours on a Friday. The team make sure the volunteers are not pushing ourselves too much. I appreciate that it is flexible in this way.”

“There was a time when I had a hospital appointment far away from where I live, and it would have cost a lot of money to get there. Healthwatch staff helped me to access patient transport. Not only do I get to help them, I also get help in return.”

- Charlene

 “I value the role and the excellent support Healthwatch Islington provides to its volunteers in fulfilling the role effectively. Healthwatch supports my needs as a carer by influencing health service delivery – for example, by campaigning for better Annual Health Checks delivery.”

- Mark

How do you help make a difference in your community?

 “I find it really gratifying to know when I have made a difference to someone. For example, at one of our visits to dentist surgeries I spoke to an older person who was being charged private rates when she shouldn’t have been. Little wins like that make you feel you’re making a difference. When we go into older people’s services, we hear things like ‘No one’s told us about this’. We make a difference to people’s lives, and they appreciate that. Once you’ve helped one person, they can help another person. It’s not always about the masses.”

- Rose

“The fact that I’ve been given the opportunity to help people and communities makes a difference to me. I'm hoping that everyone will get to know about Healthwatch. It would be nice to see us working more with other communities like young people, people from different ethnicity groups. With time I’m hopeful that we will give more focus to communities that we are yet to reach.”

- Charlene

Alvin Kinch, Volunteering and Regional Network (London) Manager, adds:

"Thank you to our volunteers for their valuable effort during the COVID-19 response, addressing the challenges posed by the pandemic, making sure everyone stays safe, and being there for people in their community.

We couldn’t make a difference to people’s lives without you."

Interested in volunteering?

Becoming a Healthwatch volunteer is easy. Get in touch with your local Healthwatch to find out about volunteering opportunities in your area.

Find volunteering opportunities near you