Salvation Army praises volunteers for vital role they play supporting communities across country
published on 31 May 2019
This Volunteer’s Week (1 to 7 June) The Salvation Army is praising the key role volunteers play in its work to support people in need as well as highlighting the positive benefits people can gain from volunteering.
The Salvation Army is supporting families, individuals and people in need across the UK and Republic of Ireland, and its volunteers are the vital back bone of the outreach and community work taking place.
Research from the Charity Awareness Monitor by nfpSynergy this month has shown that the numbers of young people volunteering aged 16-24 has increased from 17% in February 2008 to 38% of young people in November 2018. This comes as The Salvation Army is encouraging people from all walks of life to consider offering just a few hours of their time.
Katherine Riley, 21, is studying Pharmacology at the University of Bristol, and volunteers as a first responder with The Salvation Army’s modern slavery unit. She attends The Salvation Army’s Bristol Citadel church and after hearing about the Army’s work with victims of modern slavery in England and Wales (the charity holds the Government contract for the support of adult victims) she wanted to help.
In January 2018 Katherine Riley attended an intensive training day to enable her to take on the voluntary role of First Responder. First Responders complete an initial assessment of someone’s situation and needs. They then complete paperwork so each potential victim of modern slavery can be officially recognised and get the support to which they are entitled. This then helps Salvation Army staff put together the right support plan for each person.
Katherine has done five such interviews so far, with a slow down this year as she has been on a work placement, but starting back on her MSci in September she hopes she will be able to do more alongside her studies. Most of the interviews she has done are face-to-face, where a phone interview isn’t possible perhaps because the individual is traumatised or in prison or hospital.
“So many people don’t realise that human trafficking is prevalent in this country. I didn’t realise and it is just not acceptable that people are living as slaves. Being a First Responder has increased my knowledge of this crime.
"You learn so much about [the people you are interviewing], and their lives. It is nice that you see them when they are coming out of it and are hopefully better for that. It makes me realise how lucky I am to have a family who loves me and makes me realise how privileged I am.”
Jade, 30, from Clipstone (Nottinghamshire), began to volunteer with The Salvation Army in Mansfield in January 2019 – helping at the charity shop, with the church’s food parcel programme, and toddler group. She said: “Knowing that I am helping people gives me confidence – I can tell that other people benefit from what I do, it gives purpose to my day and makes me feel part of my community.”
Jade has a degree and had a career in teaching ahead of her – having been accepted on a PGCE to train as a secondary school teacher – when four years ago she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Jade needed surgery to remove the tumour and radiotherapy afterwards, causing her to need a long recovery. This meant she was unable to start her studies. Sometimes Jade can feel very tired as a result of her surgery and therapy, she said: “Sometimes when I feel tired I get slurred speech and my limbs feel heavy, I feel exhausted when I get home.”
Jade now volunteers two mornings a week at The Salvation Army on Victoria Street. She said: “We provide food parcels to people who need them. I offer them a cuppa and talk with them. I play with the children from the toddler group and chat to the parents too. Because I am not working I wanted to give something back and to use my time for good.”
Jade says that volunteering at The Salvation Army helps with her confidence levels, as she meets different people during her time volunteering in the charity shop and at the church’s toddler group.
Jade volunteers alongside others, who she considers good friends at the church. Stephen Hicks, community programme co-ordinator at Mansfield Salvation Army, said: “[Jade] is a very helpful and willing volunteer to the charity shop and a very valuable asset to the toddler group.”
Claire Bonham is Volunteer Development Manager at The Salvation Army, and says that Jade and Katherine’s personal experiences and ability to provide a listening ear are so valuable to the people The Salvation Army works with. She says volunteering can be great for gaining valuable experience and skills, meeting new people and providing a sense of purpose. All of these benefits can be linked to improving general wellbeing and mental health.
“We see every day how much our 12,000 volunteers are gaining from giving their time to help others. Often people are looking for a way to give back to the community they live in but we would encourage everyone to consider volunteering to see how it might improve their own wellbeing and positivity.
“Every volunteer comes with skills, talents and experiences that contribute to the work of The Salvation Army, whatever their background.
“When people come to us in desperate need we help them overcome their problems and get their lives heading in the right direction. We do this by giving them unconditional love and support and by offering a range of specialist services run by trained officers, staff and volunteers.
“It’s when they are at their lowest ebb that people turn to The Salvation Army and very often we can help them when no one else can. We are a 'safety net' for people who fall through the gaps in society and our volunteers are absolutely vital to help us in this work.”
The Salvation Army run a host of volunteering opportunities from one off events to more long term commitments across the country. To find out more please visit - https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/volunteer-for-us