10 years at NCS – Volunteer Coordinator reflectsPosted on 2nd June 2015 by Seb Feast
Last week I spoke to Naomi Lacey (Volunteer Coordinator) who has recently reached the 10 year mark of her work with the Neighbourhood Care Scheme. Some days prior to our conversation Sean de Podesta (Service Manager) presented Naomi with celebratory gifts from himself and the rest of the NCS team, and slices of delicious lemon drizzle cake (pictured below and made by Jo Ivens, CEO) were shared around the office.
Considering that she has recently reached such a big milestone with Impetus, and that this week is Volunteers’ Week, we thought it would be a good idea to reflect on some of the aspects of Naomi’s job as Volunteer Coordinator. Following are the questions I asked and the responses she gave.
1. How do you feel having worked here with the NCS for ten years?
“I’m proud to have achieved that amount of time and lucky to have been in such a good role that’s given me job satisfaction and helped lots of people. Very pleased to still be here.”
2. What have been the good things?
“Generally helping people that we support and the matching; it’s one of the most important things, enabling the volunteers to do their befriending. But also supporting the volunteers and giving them a chance to give something back to their community. It’s very much a dual-sided role, the recruitment of the volunteers and supporting the people that need help, so you get to benefit from both really.
“My team at the NCS and wider Impetus colleagues are lovely, I feel well-supported and it’s an enjoyable place to work with lots of enthusiasm.”
3. Any highlights you’d like to share?
“Matching up some really isolated people who haven’t seen anybody for ages, seeing the friendships blossom, and the lengths volunteers go to for their scheme members; it’s above and beyond. It really is inspiring.
“It’s heartwarming, especially because we do live in such busy times; sometimes it’s hard enough just to manage your own things let alone be looking out for someone else.
“Also it’s nice to think that some of the matches that I did when I first started are still going 10 years on.”
4. What about any bad things / difficulties?
“When I first started there were more people without the support they should be getting, which was always quite upsetting. Not the right care packages, not the right general support. There were more people where you’d go in and sort of think: ‘How have you been managing to live like this?’ So that does happen less, I’m pleased to say.
“Just generally the way people do get really isolated. One of the saddest things I heard years ago, when I was working in the Queen’s Park area, was that there was a woman who could hardly ever see her daughter because her daughter lived in Moulsecoomb and she couldn’t really afford to get the bus. The daughter was caring for someone of her own at home, her husband, and she just couldn’t afford the time or money to visit her mum who only lived in a different part of Brighton. That seemed heartbreaking.”
5. Is there anything particular you’ve learned about volunteering after supporting 100s of volunteers?
“What surprised me when I first started was the diverse range of volunteers we had, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t realise there’d be such busy people that do volunteering and fit it in. Some people with really high-flying careers, or really busy parents, or people who are enjoying their retirement but want to still do something. The age range as well, we get so many young volunteers now which has been a relatively new thing for us. And again much older people, we’ve had even older volunteers than the elderly person they’re visiting.
“The compassion and the warmness of spirit that people have, it’s what keeps us going. We’re nothing really without our volunteers.”
6. What do you think about the situation of older people / people with physical disabilities?
“According to the people we support and the volunteers I think accessibility is still lacking in some areas. I’ve even experienced that myself when I was volunteering with the scheme supporting somebody in a wheelchair, that was a few years ago, but it wasn’t right; you know, certain venues. Things like The Fed are doing brilliant things, and just giving people information that is really positive, but I think there’s still room for improvement. But things do seem better than when I started.”
7. Can you say anything about the impact of your volunteers in the lives of the people they visit? And on their own lives?
“The impact that they make is helping to end people’s isolation. And even if it’s just a short time that they give each week it makes such a big difference just that people on our books have something to look forward to. Also I think one of the main things for a lot of people is when volunteers get people out; when they find it difficult to get out of their homes for some reason, whether it’s psychological or physical, just having that person to support them makes a really big difference. We’ve people that haven’t been out for ages and then they get a volunteer, I mean their horizons are broadened.
“Not everybody we support lives on their own but I think just to have a different face coming in, something else to talk and think about, another thing to focus on, another viewpoint on life I suppose…and generally knowing someone is there is really important. Even if that’s us; knowing they’re on the scheme and they have that support, an organisation they can turn to, a lot of people say that’s really nice.
“From the point of view of the volunteers, I think it enriches their life really. For some of our volunteers it boosts their confidence and self-esteem and I think it can give them a focus. For other people it’s just that nice fuzzy feeling to know that you’re doing something good and giving something back. And also making a new friend, because it’s not just a one-sided thing, it is a friendship. A lot of the older people are interested in younger generations and vice versa. There are volunteers as young as 14, still a very small percentage of younger people but it’s quite important.”
Thanks to Naomi for sharing her thoughts. We’re grateful for all her work over these past ten years and hope that she continues to enjoy her time with the NCS and Impetus.