The unsung and unpaid heroes of our community
IT seems as if every week there is a national “awareness” week. Last week it was National Volunteers Week and I wanted to dedicate my column to everyone who volunteers across Wokingham Borough and acknowledge the huge effort, dedication, commitment and value they bring.
In Wokingham we have hundreds of voluntary organisations doing amazing things that make a difference to peoples’ lives. We are not talking about a few “do-gooders” but people in every neighbourhood helping to make the Borough a better place to be.
Many organisations would not be able to operate – the people that drive patients to medical appointments, the people that man the welcome desk at the hospital, the library volunteers, those that phone people once a week for a chat and of course the Healthwatchers that feed stories back to us at Healthwatch about people’s experiences of local services – what is working and what could be improved.
The thing about volunteers is that what they do is priceless – by giving up time to support and help another person – you can’t quantify the value of that. The Chief Executive of Berkshire Youth reminded me of a great quote last week: “Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted, counts.” – Albert Einstein
People volunteer for an endless variety of reasons. Many people want to gain experience, acquire new skills, meet new people, or expand their network of contacts as a way to get a new job or start a career. Others just want to give back to their community, to help a friend or promote a worthwhile activity. They do it because it makes them feel good. This is the intrinsic value of volunteering, not the cost saving it generates.
Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group are currently running a series of listening tours to help them develop a new strategy for working with the Voluntary and Community Sector. The NHS locally wants to explore how to make best use of community resources, skills, knowledge and expertise.
The fact that our Voluntary and Community Sector will play a key role in co-producing the strategy will mean that the value of our work will hopefully be reflected, as commissioning priorities shift towards acknowledging and promoting the importance of preventative work.
I would like to thank a core group of Healthwatch Champions that give up their time to collect people’s stories of health and care, keep their ear to the ground and let us know what is happening at the front line of receiving services, visit care homes and hospitals talking to the people that matter most, hand out leaflets to raise awareness and research pieces of work with us.
Healthwatch Wokingham certainly could not run without you. Thanks to all of you that give up your time to help others.
You make Wokingham a better place.
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