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This National Volunteering Week, we’re celebrating the contributions volunteers make in our communities. We hear how important volunteers are to Aware, a national charity that supports people experiencing low mood, anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder. 

Aware is a national charity that supports people experiencing low mood, anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder. They have four services supported by volunteers: a support line, local support groups, a support email, and the Life Skills Online programme.

With most of these services delivered in person – volunteers with the support line usually do their shifts from the Aware office in Dublin – they had to quickly adapt with the onset of the pandemic. Within days training had moved online, and the helpline was changed to work through an app on volunteers’ mobile phones – all secure and encrypted – so they could take calls during their shift while at home.

Aware made looking after their volunteers’ mental health a priority. They have made the importance of shifts very clear – if a volunteer is on for a three hour shift, then they finish when the three hours is up. When fulfilling a volunteer role at home, the lines between ‘on’ and ‘off’ can become blurred so they have been very clear about maintaining boundaries.

They also created a ‘buddy system’ whereby a more experienced volunteer will check in with a volunteer at the end of their shift to see how they are, how they got on and if there were any challenges. This is really important as one of the most enjoyable aspects of volunteering for many is the social side where they make connections with other people – this doesn’t replace that but ensures the volunteer feels supported and connected.

However, virtual volunteering isn’t for everyone. For some volunteers, particularly those who don’t typically deliver Aware’s online services, technology has been a challenge. In these cases, they offered extra support to help the transition but in some instances the volunteers felt it was best to wait until things went back to normal to continue their role. Aware have been sure to engage these volunteers in other ways by asking them to spread the word about their services online and by word of mouth.

Thank you to the team at Aware for sharing their Story. Please DM us or email [email protected] if you’d like to share yours! #MyVolunteerStory #CelebrateVolunteers #NVW2022 

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