Volunteering made easy for 2019

In 2016, Over The Wall’s Director of Volunteering, Zoe Grant won the coveted ‘Volunteer Manager of the Year’ award from Third Sector Awards, securing the charity’s reputation as a solid volunteering provider. Since then OTW volunteers have racked up an astonishing 12,100 days (the equivalent of 33 years!) the charity has become a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Approved Activity Provider with a growing number of DofE students taking advantage of the free residential voluntary programme and training and support of volunteers continues to be creative and innovative.

So what’s new for 2019, Zoe?

“First of all – Happy New Year! 2019 is set to be a fantastic year for volunteering with Over The Wall. We have just launched a new day-time volunteering role – a great opportunity for people who may have wanted to get involved with Over The Wall previously, but have been put-off by the residential aspect of our camps, or who have limited free-time but really want to get stuck in with the ethos of our camps”.

How does day-time volunteering work at camp?

“Logistically, a day-time volunteer will arrive just after breakfast and leave just before dinner. In reality they just miss dinner time and a small evening programme. A day-time volunteer will still join with all the other, residential volunteers the day before campers arrive for training. It’s important for volunteers to get to know each other on the same footing, as they will be involved in the exact same activities – just over a smaller time period”.

What kind of skills are you looking for and who do you envisage applying?

“The exciting thing about this new role is that it’s wide-open for anyone to apply – we don’t have a particular person in mind.

We’re looking for skills we might not already have at our disposal, so day-time volunteers may be older, professional workers who can bring well-established time management and project management skills with them; retirees have a wealth of knowledge and skills which don’t just vanish because they’ve stopped working. The richness they could bring – to share with younger volunteers – is really exciting. But we’re also trying to bridge the gap a little – we have lots of former volunteers who have stopped coming to camp because they’ve started families and they have busy lives, but we’ve invested a lot in them and they’ve invested a lot in us, we don’t want to put an end to people’s journey with us just because life may have changed. In a way we’re fulfilling demand by creating this role which allows the volunteer to go back home at the end of their shift.

So, we could be talking early retirees, parents who can’t leave their young ones overnight, workers, people who may not want to stay overnight and share rooms, or people who just want to go home and switch-off after 8 hours. In terms of age, we have no upper age limit – as long as you’re aged 18 – we had a 70 year old join us last year!

It’s a win-win situation for us as a charity because introducing day-time volunteering means we maximize our funding and money saved is spent directly on the camper experience. It’s also a real selling point to have a flexible approach to volunteering and our consistent message is that the volunteer experience, whether residential or day-time, will always be the maximum volunteer experience”.

What’s your advice for first-time volunteers?

“The decision to give-up some of your valuable time to support children with serious illnesses can be life-changing, not just to the children you support – but for you too!

Camp is an exciting, fluid and sometimes overwhelming experience. You’ll arrive, and you’ll see that lots of people seem to know each other really well – but don’t be daunted by that, they may have only met once before at camp, but because the relationships you build can be so strong, you feel like you’ve known each other forever.

No one is an outsider at our camps. Which is why it’s so important to get to know you, your name and your circumstances from the minute you first put an application in. We make the application process as personable an experience as possible.

Always ask questions. Camp is so fast and there are so many moving parts to it that sometimes it can seem difficult to keep up and to know where to be and when – so ask questions or ask to be allocated specific roles. There are always people to help, whether that’s staff members or volunteers who are returning for their tenth camp!

Accept that you may not get to do all of the activities on offer at camp – what you’re going to be doing is something much better and that is supporting young people with serious illnesses and their siblings and families to do those activities themselves. You may not get to do the highropes course, but you’ll get to see a child’s face as they achieve something they simply never thought they could, all because you were there spurring them on at the bottom of the course”.

Great – how can I find out more?

If you would like to find out more about volunteering as a day-time, residential, DofE, clinical or non-clinical volunteer email volunteering@otw.org.uk or visit our volunteering web pages.

Or, if you’re ready – apply now!