Volunteers' Week 2020 June 1st-7th

Make time to say thank you

Chat Central Improving Lives  Healthwatch Accelerate Progress Your Future Your Integration


  Sue Ogle

  Chief Executive Officer Voluntary Action Coventry

“Volunteers Week is celebrated between 1st and 7th June every year. It is a week in which the UK celebrates volunteers and says thank you to them for the contribution that they make. The week also raises awareness about the benefits of becoming a volunteer and the diverse volunteering roles that are available” (Volunteers Week 2020)


This year due to Covid19 and social distancing, events and activities for Volunteers’ Week will not happen. In these challenging and unparalleled times, the role of volunteers in society has become more apparent, especially looking after the needs of the most isolated and vulnerable people in our communities.  Voluntary Action Coventry through developing its use of social media and online meetings has been developing ways to enable and encourage people to connect with each other, whether as volunteers or people who are feeling in need of support.  We have found many people with lots of talents and skills which they have been sharing with each other, and linking people to volunteering opportunities to help with Covid-19 and lock down.

Voluntary Action Coventry would normally hold an event celebrating volunteers and raising awareness of volunteering opportunities available to people looking to volunteer.  As this is not possible, we would like to showcase the wonderful work of the people who have journeyed through the projects being delivered by Voluntary Action Coventry, as well highlight some of the invaluable work being done by people who give their time and energy to supporting VAC, and its projects through people’s individual stories, many of whom give their time to more than one project.

By dealing with these challenges in different ways both volunteers and service users are growing and developing their skills and abilities. Part of people’s experiences, which are inevitably reflected within their journeys are thoughts about the pandemic, and its impact this Volunteers Week 2020.

To keep people’s brains occupied and to raise awareness of the history of the Charitable sector in the UK we also have a brief quiz, get your answers right and we will send you a virtual certificate. Join us in our volunteering quiz challenge!

VAC thanks all of its volunteers and the volunteers across Coventry both past and present for the fantastic contribution they make to our services and the City.

Show cased below are some of the stories of volunteers, people benefiting from services and the journeys they travel, and are still traveling."






 VAC Volunteer

"I have been involved in volunteering for most of my working life – teaching adults to read, working with looked after children, volunteering in various schools and for the last seven years at the Drop In Centre for Mind.

This time last year, after retiring, I also started volunteering at Voluntary Action Coventry and a few months ago with Chat Central.

I find I am not happy unless I am doing something useful, and particularly enjoy helping people in making changes which improve their lives or cope with circumstances they can’t change.

I am always really pleased when I have helped somebody to achieve something they might have found difficult without support. I believe volunteering gives as much to the volunteer as it does to those receiving support.

Volunteering at Chat Central has given me the opportunity to meet a great group of diverse people and take part in many interesting activities. I am looking forward to seeing how this will progress over the coming months when the coronavirus pandemic is under control."




 VAC Volunteer

"I came to volunteer at Chat Central through attending the Improving Lives course at Voluntary Action Coventry.  The support I received both on this course and through the Accelerate programme gave me the confidence to use skills I’d forgotten I had.  The work I do there includes attending the Drop-In sessions and workshops, taking part in Zoom group chats, giving one to one support and promoting Chat Central by distributing leaflets.

As well as volunteering at Chat Central I also help at UHCW by identifying carers and making sure they have the support they need through Coventry Carers.

I have experienced many different aspects of volunteering at Chat Central. In particular I enjoyed the Lantern Workshop, the banter on the Zoom group chats, doing the Café Culture survey, learning new skills at the workshops and using new technology such as Zoom.

I was particularly pleased to be asked to support one of the service users on a one to one basis since the Covid-19 lockdown as this gave me the opportunity to do something I’m good at – helping vulnerable people.

Volunteering has done me the world of good. I feel I can make a contribution and it has also given me a routine and structure. Hopefully it will help me to get back on the road to employment. I have also had the opportunity to meet a lot of new people which has given me a boost as I live alone and don’t have a support mechanism.

VAC has been a pillar of strength to me and it feels as though the people there are my family."





 VAC Volunteer

"I have taken part in a variety of activities since becoming a volunteer with Chat Central. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic and lock down I was attending the Monday drop-ins to support users and came to many of the Tuesday sessions and enjoyed the various activities on offer.

Since the pandemic I have been unable to go out but have been able to help by running online dance classes each Tuesday and craft sessions on Mondays where we are making new things by upcycling objects around us. I am also joining in with the Zoom chats and calling four isolated people for a chat each week.

I have really enjoyed many of the activities available such as drumming and yoga. I’ve especially valued the opportunity to connect with people from different backgrounds and to support my community as I am trying to meet new people.

Helping others makes me feel cheerful and I would like to thank everyone involved for giving me the opportunity to help when I was housebound. It has been great to feel I am doing something productive and positive."



 Stephan on Zoom – virtual meetings, an everyday occurrence!


 VAC Volunteer

"I have taken part in a number of activities through Chat Central e.g. attending drop in sessions, doing yoga and taking part in the Café Culture survey. Since the pandemic I have been ringing and emailing service users and taking part in online chats through Zoom, Why pay, video and telephone conferencing.

I really enjoy chatting to people and feel it is very important to keep in touch with each other - one call lasted an hour and 45 minutes!

I have had many new experiences such as learning to embroider and listening to the interesting speakers who have come to our sessions. I have also met some delightful people through Chat Central.  

It is great to feel part of a community rather than being shut away, especially since the Covid-19 shutdown."


 Blanchy's Story

For the people who have not been working, we have been in our homes or rooms for the last eight weeks, and know how lucky we are because we are well. Before, we enjoyed travelling, gatherings or parties but this quarantine has taught us to be in our sacred place, our home.  Why is it sacred? It is only for us, our loved ones.

We have opened the space for the world to breathe and renew.

I arrived in this beautiful city of Coventry a few months ago, looking for a job which I found very hard.  I started to walk around the town and realised it was so multicultural as I remembered my talk I delivered few years ago back in 2018, about how we could contribute many skills to the country in which we reside. People from overseas enrich the culture of a country.

Recently, I joined the volunteer group of Chat Central that Heather had invited me to be part of, where I saw many people from a variety of cultures, knowledge and backgrounds of dance, music, cooking, yoga etc. It was fabulous, I was able to give some time to teach English, I saw a richness in every person who joined the group.

Everyone was coping well with this isolation which we have to endure. When this quarantine is lifted, this change will help us to be more flexible and tolerant and different thinking. When the quarantine is finished we will be ready to work for the benefit of everyone, we will respect each other. To live and to be well and to work are the same goals for everyone.

I would like to thank the NHS, Nurses, Doctors, Chefs, Cleaners, Drivers etc who have been working hard during these times.  You will have so much rewards back

People who have participated in the Improving Lives Course



 Improving Lives

Farzana attended VAC’s volunteer fair where she found out about the Improving Lives course. Farzana’s children were school age and her husband worked away most days, often in London. She had not volunteered before in the UK but had worked abroad as a house-keeper and also a cleaner in a hospital.  She hoped to meet new people whilst on the course and also to improve her confidence and English speaking skills. She said that she hoped to work as a volunteer and eventually gain employment.

She enjoyed the course and the interaction, as well as the time spent visiting organisations. Farzana was able to meet with other people, improve her English speaking ability and gain lots of confidence. The activities during the course highlighted her skills and really made her feel involved and a part of a bigger picture.  She went on to volunteer at a local shop as a way of continuing her interaction with local people and building upon her confidence and English speaking skills.  Her voluntary work and commitment led to her securing work as a lunch time supervisor at a local school. She was absolutely delighted when she told us! The Improving Lives course, and Farzana’s volunteering, really helped her on her forward journey to a fulfilling career

Farzana's words: "I was lucky enough to have volunteering and VAC course with me when I needed most. Volunteering made me feel valuable, respected and lovable. And for VAC, I am so glad that I made decision to start the course. This course helped me to regain my self-confidence, improve my communication skills, understand goal setting and importance of teamwork. It also helped me to recognise my strengths, what my barriers were and how to overcome them. These skills have helped me in any social situation and in my job interview"



Improving Lives

PG had been long term unemployed and suffered from a physical disability which meant he could not stand or walk very well. He had worked previously in retail at large supermarkets. He overarching passion was for music and his dream was to be a radio presenter. Throughout the Improving Lives course he was determined to realise his dream. He wanted to be successful as a DJ.  He paid attention to all the activities on the volunteering course and was able to put knowledge, confidence and his skills to his new role.  He couldn’t believe that, as a result of coming on to Improving Lives, he was able to realise his ambitions and go some way to fulfil his dreams at a local radio station.  PG has a hosted a number of live shows and is always full of praise for the opportunities volunteering has offered. It has opened doors to new experiences, career opportunities and other courses that can lead on to fulfilling his ambitions.  We were delighted that PG had the confidence and went on to volunteer.

Helping others makes me feel cheerful and I would like to thank everyone involved for giving me the opportunity to help when I was housebound. It has been great to feel I am doing something productive and positive.


  Building Better Opportunities:

Progress Harry

 Progress Volunteer

Harry aged 19 left collage last year and joined the Building Better Opportunities: Progress programme. Harry really enjoys being in his garden and doing landscaping. This year Harry participated in volunteering at ‘Friends of Spencer Park’ and ‘Team Springboard’ through the specialist support from Jyoti our Supported Volunteering Officer. Harry enjoys volunteering as it allows him to be close to nature and learn about the different varieties of plants. Volunteering makes Harry feel much happier and he can’t wait to return back to ‘Team Springboard’ after lockdown.

 Fozia with Sue (CEO VAC) and Ruth from Your Future Your Integration



  Your Future Your Integration

"I have three children, and I have a higher education degree from my home country. I knew that I want to work as a public officer, but not sure in which role.  I became part of the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund project, Your Future Your Integration, and worked with Nic, I then joined the volunteering course with Ruth and helped with the next confidence course, which helped me to gain my confidence and start to believe in myself.  I became a volunteer at Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, and there I want to do advice and guidance, so I joined their advice team.  I am working with people, helping them to deal with their housing, debt and benefit needs.  Eventually I want to get a job as an advice worker. To help this to happen I am developing my skills and knowledge, as a volunteer as well as being able to look after my children."



  Your Future Your Integration

I am a young woman, new to the UK, I joined Chat Central, where I met Ruth at VAC. I wanted to develop my skills and make the most of my time, so I just started volunteering for Your Future Your Integration supporting the volunteering course. The course helps people to develop their skills, confidence, team building and goal setting with the aim to start volunteering or employment. I have been providing help with the materials to set the training up, supporting people to join in discussions, and providing a listening ear to help people to think about their journeys and their futures. I enjoy giving additional support and helping people to integrate and make the most of the opportunities offered them.

I want to develop my skills and confidence, and to be able to use my teaching skills that I have gained from before. Eventually I want to develop my English language and skills so that I can get a job, but until then I am very happy to give something back to the community and help other people.

Because of Covid-19 I am unable to help with the course, but I am enjoying being part of Chat Central where I can spend time talking with people, and offering and getting support.

When Jonida is invaluable to Your Future Your Integration and the workshops. Without Jonida helping with the course it would be much more difficult to set up, and to welcome and look after people. Jonida helps the people to relax, getting them ready to participate and make the most of the opportunities being offered. Her understanding of the needs of people on the course and her skills to help organise things to get set up has been wonderful


Healthwatch Coventry


Natalie Lyang

 Healthwatch Coventry Volunteer

"Louise and I met by coincidence at the WATCH centre (A community Centre working actively to change an area with high levels of poverty and diverse communities), where she gave a talk about the significant work Healthwatch Coventry were doing for the community. In the talk she mentioned that to understand more people’s needs in health and social care, they needed to spread the word digitally and were looking for volunteers to help them do so. I immediately signed up, knowing it would be an invaluable opportunity to gain experience in digital marketing whilst making a difference in the community.

Louise and the team were great. My hours were very flexible and fitted around my schedule. Most importantly though, Louise arranged two really insightful meetings with Healthwatch Warwickshire and the City Council, so I could gather all the information I needed to help create a digital strategy for the team.

Healthwatch Coventry needed a young person to help them understand and expand their reach digitally. Since we had limited funding, the most organic way to do this without paying for ads was through organic social media marketing. I re-designed the layout of their social channels, increased their contacts and engagement, but also created and scheduled posts to increase traffic to their pages.

This experience was vital to gaining a place on Bruntwood’s graduate scheme (Bruntwood is a family-owned property company offering office space, serviced offices, retail space and virtual offices in the north of England and Birmingham in the United Kingdom). There were over 750 graduate applicants with 2.1 degrees in various subjects, but thanks to my voluntary experience with Healthwatch, I stood out as someone who was both career-motivated and interested in giving back to the community. It's extremely difficult to gain hands-on experience in the digital industry without having any qualifications in the field. Healthwatch not only trusted me with the job but went to lengths to ensure my experience was as valuable as it could have been. My interviewers were so interested and impressed by the meetings I had attended and the insights I had gained, I really feel like I owe my current job to this voluntary role!  I have now enrolled in a formal qualification in Digital Marketing, paid for by the company and well on the way to my dream career.

Volunteering taught me that by grabbing an opportunity like this, despite how small it may seem, can have a huge impact both on your life and the lives of other people. I’m really grateful for the opportunity and would encourage anyone looking to give back or gain experience to sign up to volunteer with Healthwatch."



 Authorised Representative Healthwatch Coventry

"I joined Healthwatch Coventry in 2015, as I wanted to support local people (especially the more vulnerable and less able, who are often not heard) to voice their views and opinions about the NHS and Social Care services they use. I felt that I could be an effective part of a team and make a positive difference, by enabling local people to be listened to, involved and empowered.

I had a Disclosure and Barring Service Check (DBS) and received specific Enter and View Authorised Representative training, covering topics such as:

  • Communication skills - questioning, listening, reporting

  • Team working

  • Equality and Diversity

  • Confidentiality

  • Data Protection

  • Adult Safeguarding 

  • Dementia Awareness

  • Qualities, conduct and behaviour of an Authorised Representative

I have been involved in a wide variety of projects including:

  • Respite Care in Coventry, collating a draft report from completed questionnaires, where family carers and the people they cared for were asked about their experiences of respite care they received and whether the service met the needs of the carers.

  • Enter and View visits to care homes; observing delivery of care and the environment and talking to service users, carers, relatives and staff, gathering their views and opinions regarding the services received and given.

  • Another project involved carrying out surveys which looked at what people thought of the use of technology in the NHS and communication between patients and GP services.

  • I have engaged with members of the public on information stands in local venues such as libraries, a Sikh temple, care homes, day centres and hospitals.

  • As a Healthwatch volunteer, I have carried out Patient Led Assessments of the Care Environment (PLACE) at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust (UHCW NHS Trust), supporting the Trust to improve their service to patients.

  • I worked with the Healthwatch team on a Reablement Support project, enabling people, including the most vulnerable and frailest; to voice their opinions and feelings about the care they received after a stay in hospital.

  • Healthwatch Coventry carried out a piece of work looking at what local people think is important about their Pharmacy services. My role for this project was to promote Healthwatch Coventry and deliver survey questionnaires to Pharmacy’s for them to distribute to their customers.

Personally, I enjoy being part of the team at Healthwatch Coventry, working towards making a positive difference in relation to and feedback which is fed into the planning and delivery of Health and Social Care Services. I have enjoyed meeting and engaging with people from all walks of life. As an individual, I feel that I have a greater respect and understanding for others and I more fully understand the importance of listening to and valuing the opinions of other people."



Healthwatch Coventry Volunteer

"I found out about volunteering for Healthwatch via the Do-it-Org volunteering web site.

My role is to provide admin support one morning a week to the Healthwatch Assistant.

I am supported by the fact that on a Monday morning (when I usually volunteer) it helps me to structure my week. I am treated in a professional manner and enjoy working in the office.

Healthwatch has helped me, as although I am retired it has maintained my self-confidence by proving to myself that I can still do a professional job in a professional organisation.

Healthwatch has helped in the following ways;

  1. It has kept my computer skills up to date
  2. I have learnt a great deal about Healthwatch
  3. It gets me out of “my retirement bubble” and reminds me how other people live."