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Becky's Blog

Becky's Volunteering Blog

In summer 2015 Rebecca joined us as a student volunteer to share her skills with HARCVS.

In this blog, Rebecca shares her story of her time with us... 

HARCVS would like to thank Rebecca for all her hard work and flexibility and for giving us some really useful contributions to a number of projects.

Day 1

I arrived and was shown around Harrogate Community House, giving me a chance to meet the lovely team before the weekly Monday diary meeting at 10am. The meeting consisted of going through the forthcoming weeks events. I met with Karen to go through the general regulations, data protection and confidentiality contracts in the very helpful Volunteers Handbook.  Following on from that I was able to sit in on a meeting with Karen, Rachel and Lizzie where they brainstormed ideas for their upcoming stand in the Heritage tent at the Nidderdale Agricultural Show in September. Here they talked about achieving the balance between attracting their target audience at the show (ie adults), whilst also engaging with their children (ie through a fun activity) in order to maintain adults’ attention for long enough to chat to them.  Thus, just my first morning I was able to see the diversity of work at HARCVS.  

In the afternoon Karen and I travelled to the Rural Arts Centre in Thirsk to attend a Community Directory Workshop. Today’s session was the first in a four-part series of workshops where primarily the discussion revolved around identifying the key stakeholders for the Community Directory. The aim of these workshops was to make headway in collating a directory of voluntary and community organisations throughout North Yorkshire. However this task is not as simple as listing the organisations and putting them online. Problems such as keeping the contact details up to date and making them accessible for the users (both professional and public) etc. has to be overcome – although the cake breaks made the problem solving that much more enjoyable!

Day 2

This morning I accompanied Jane, Lizzie and Frances on a trip down to Sainsbury’s for “coffee and shopping” with Harrogate Easier Living Service (HELP). This trip was part of their Opening Doors service which receives some funding from NYCC Health and Adult Services. Opening Doors allows people who are lonely, isolated and vulnerable to access to social and leisure activities, as well as providing accompanied one to one support to medical appointments. It quickly became evident what a vital service HELP provides as those who attended the coffee morning were so grateful, not just for the aid in getting to and from their weekly shop, but also for the company and conversation.

In the afternoon I met with Frances, HELP project manager, who was able to give me a greater insight into the other services that HELP provides. As well as Opening Doors, HELP runs four other specific services; Help at Home, an odd job, gardening and DIY service for those who cannot manage themselves or cannot afford to pay a company; Carers Time Off, which allows carers a few hours of free time; Ripon and Rural Wellbeing Service, that provides befriending and Ripon and Rural Voluntary Car Drivers Service.  HELP is also setting up Driving Force, a voluntary car service in Harrogate and Knaresborough, which will provide a crucial lifeline to those who ordinarily do not have access to such transport. 


Day 3

Today I was able to sit in with Mark on a briefing with a Stray FM reporter on young people’s mental health and self-harming in the Harrogate and wider districts. The core of the briefing was about “parity of esteem”, in other words tackling mental health issues with the same energy and priority as we have tackled physical illness. It is about changing the experience for people who require help with mental health problems but it is about putting funding, commissioning and training on a par with physical health services. In practice this sounds simple to achieve, however as Mark explained, with Harrogate’s unique characteristics, it is not that easy.

After, I attended a meeting discussing the support given to Ripon’s volunteering sector. The meeting was looking for solutions to work in a way that is more visible and easily understood by volunteer involving organisations in Ripon.  

Nina later allowed me to sit in on a consultation with a member of the public whom had shown interest in setting up a non-profit organisation raising awareness of mental health issues. This demonstrated the wide variety of services HARCVS offers despite its small size.

Becky in the Harrogate Community House Information Centre promoting the Volunteer Oscars 

Day 4

This morning I was collating local contacts for potential raffle prizes for Lizzie in HELP to be used to raise money in the Christmas raffle.

HELP online can be viewed within the HARCVS website, however they are considering having their own web domain. Therefore I was set with the task to undertake a study of charitable/not-for profit organisations’ web sites to help identify ideas for content and best practice which could be helpful to use if they set up their own site.

Another task for the day was to take photos and write descriptions of items to be listed on ebay which would hopefully produce additional funds for HARCVS charity.

Day 5

This morning I helped Karen with organising the contracts of employment which involved double checking names and dates of employment. Afterwards I accompanied Jane on a home visit to an elderly lady whom had requested some gardening work. During the visit Jane assessed the work that needed done and asked the lady a few questions. Often HELP is able to assist their clients who may need other forms of support but are unsure as how to receive it (for instance support on outings which Opening Doors could provide)

Then I met with Anna Woollven who informed me further of HELP’s services and set a task which coincided with the findings from HELP’s annual survey. Using the questionnaire I was to look at the national and local statistics which corresponded with the questions asked. These up to date numbers would allow HELP to place their findings in context and subsequently see how their clients’ feelings translate across regions within the UK.

In the afternoon I went with Karen to a meeting in Ripon. A truly fascinating afternoon involved talking about links with the Cathedral and how they can help create a wider sense of community

Day 6

This morning I sat in on a meeting with Frances and Jen from HELP who were discussing their transport links for the up and coming Drive Force scheme with Hannah and Will from Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate. They were able to use their day to day experience of dealing with drivers/databases to advise HELP how they could figure out which volunteer it would make the most ergonomic sense to take each job.

In the afternoon I created a survey on Survey Monkey relating to one of the partnerships HARCVS facilitates. The Harrogate District Cancer Action Partnership brings together cancer patient representatives, carers, clinicians and consultants to look at how we can improve local cancer services. Essentially the survey is seeking to find out what local people think of patient services and it will be promoted at a number of events this autumn as part of a “Living with and Beyond Cancer” project.

Day 7

Becky with members of the HARCVS team on her last day 

On my last day I began with looking through a listing of online directories of local services which NYCC had complied, as part of the Community Directory project (about which I’d attended a workshop on my first day). My task was to look at a large sample of sites and look at how they work/what information they provide and is it relevant/up to date. I then compiled my findings in a database of my own. Surprisingly I found that the vast majority of sites would be of use to local service users.

In the afternoon I spent time with the lovely ladies from Supporting Older People, Anne and Kate who informed me of their services and the amazing work that SOP does in and around Harrogate.

I have had a wonderful few days at HARCVS and have had the opportunity to do so much! I would like to give a big thank you to Karen and all the team for being so welcoming and forthcoming with work/outings for me to do.