International Volunteer Day
It’s International Volunteer Day. Every year it’s a moment to mark the generosity of those who give freely of their time for others. But this year, more than ever, it feels important to acknowledge and appreciate those acts of kindness.
For months now, charities big and small have been run off their feet responding to the impacts of the pandemic. They’ve digitised, reorganised and sanitised so that they can offer the same care and compassion to those in need that they always have – just differently.
Take the Charter House Activity Centre in Burnley, which was set up to support those with learning disabilities, physical disabilities or sensory needs. Adapting to extraordinary new circumstances, they’re now travelling to people’s homes to provide welfare checks, cooked meals and packed lunches to children who would otherwise be without.
Behind every story like this, not always seen – but always felt – is an army of selfless volunteers. They have been driving their charities’ efforts forward, while often contending with unprecedented circumstances in their personal lives.
In fact, despite the challenges that Covid-19 has created for so many people this year, one in 10 UK adults – equivalent to 5million people – say they’re planning to volunteer over the Christmas period. For many, the pandemic has actually been the catalyst. Almost a third want to give time to connect with their communities, while more than a quarter want to help those in greater need due to the pandemic, according to research we commissioned with YouGov.
As Chairman of the National Emergencies Trust, I’ve felt the benefit of volunteers first hand in recent months. At the height of our Coronavirus Appeal, two thirds of our workforce were generously giving us their time. Thanks to their efforts, more than £96million has been raised, and more than £94million of this has been allocated to support those in urgent need.
Through Appeal grants data, I’ve been privileged to see the difference that volunteers’ selfless acts are making to others’ lives. The telephone befrienders who are offering vital human connection to the lonely and isolated. The door-to-door deliverers providing food parcels and living essentials to the vulnerable and shielding. The wellbeing entrepreneurs who are taking innovative steps to support their communities’ mental health, from virtual music groups, to exercise classes, to grief counselling.
This voluntary people-power has enabled charities to respond to the double blow of this pandemic: the unparalleled surge in need, while traditional sources of funding are all but cut off.
So on International Volunteer Day I’ll be reflecting on the millions of people who have put their communities’ needs ahead of their own in so many ways this year already – and the millions more who will keep on going, and keep on giving, for others this Christmas.
General The Lord Dannatt GCB CBE MC DL
The National Emergencies Trust