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Volunteer Centre Blog

Hello and welcome to the Volunteer Centre Derby blog. The aim of this blog is to keep you up-to-date with the ongoings of the centre, how our volunteers are doing in their roles, and how our learners and users are getting along.

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Jeanette: Inspirational Polish Volunteers

Tuesday 26 April 2022

There has been so much news coverage about the war in Ukraine. Sometimes it feels like too much; it’s hard to watch the devastation and suffering.

However, there was one story which caught my attention. It was about the many Polish people that are volunteering on the Polish side of the boarder with Ukraine.

They are well organised and have set up a camp to welcome the refugees as they arrive. There are different stalls set up, a bit like a market place, so that the refugees can get food and water, some clothes and blankets, and even toys for the children.

There’s also a place for refugees to rest so that they can have some time to themselves, to think about what they want to do or where they want to go next.

Once the refugees are rested, buses are provided to take them to various places in Poland, where they can continue their journeys.

The volunteers are amazing. They’re always cheerful and welcoming. They reassure the Ukrainians that they are safe. They volunteer more than 12 hour days and mainly outdoors, whatever the weather. They are committed to helping at this most difficult time.

Jeanette: Yes – we make a difference!

Tuesday 30 November 2021:

Here is something to cheer us up from the getting bogged down and frustrated with the way we have been working over the last few months.

I had been working with David, who came to us to improve his IT skills. He had been referred to us from the Job Centre. I soon discovered that he could not read very well and had dyslexia. He was able to follow the Learn My Way courses with audio commentary and explanations. He did well, finishing three modules. He then moved onto the Achieve Your Potential (AYP) scheme. This gave me the framework to help with his literacy skills.

Then COVID-19 struck.

During the first lockdown, I was providing telephone support for the AYP participants. I thought I could still help him using telephone calls and writing lessons which were sent to him in the post. (Of course I could not have done this without the help, support and encouragement from Rob!)

We managed to cover the basics of grammar, punctuation and letter writing skills for job applications. We also covered a variety of topics that David found interesting. He discovered a real interest in Vikings and Romans. We watched programmes (separately of course!) and discussed them and then he would write pages about what he had learned.

David made some great improvements and gained a bit more confidence. We were also aided and abetted by his granddaughter, who coached him with the reading the story of Little Red Riding Hood to me over the phone.

At last, he achieved his ultimate goal of getting a full-time job. He thanked us all for the help we had given him. Getting into full-time work will make such a difference to his life. I feel proud of what he has done, and I can say – yes, we make a difference!

Trish: The Seasoned Mover

Monday 21 June 2021:

Well, if there is one thing I have a bit of experience of it’s moving home.

Having spent ten years being an army wife, I encountered seven moves in just under two years. Where ever you move to, be it hundreds of miles away or just around the corner, it’s a huge upheaval. By the way, I have done a ‘just around the corner’ move – our army quarter in Wiltshire started to fall down and I was given 24 hours to pack up and move round the corner with two babies and a dog in tow. And no removal firm to help!

Moving is rated as one of the most stressful events in one’s life – with masses of tasks to do, from packing, cleaning, changing address on all documents, to new schools, and making new friends. All of this I took in my stride. I had a system – moving was an adventure.

In 2019 I not only sold my business and joined the retirement crew, I moved to a new house and relocated. One of these changes is enough to bring on a panic attack, but all three at the same time… I was leaving the place I had spent my childhood and the last 20 years. Piece of cake! I was an experienced mover, after all. But moving, and especially relocating, takes on a different meaning when you are older.

This time there were no children or pets to consider, so no new schools or clubs or dog walks to add to the daunting list of ‘jobs to do’. Strangely though, this made the relocating part of the move more daunting and a real challenge. It’s easy making new friends when dropping children off at the school gate or the swimming club or taking the dog for a walk. I found I was really having to force myself to get out and meet my new neighbours.

This obviously has been even more of a challenge while we have been living through lockdown, and if it wasn’t for the amount of work needed doing in the new house and garden it could have been a very lonely time and homesickness would have been a problem.

Thankfully, when lockdown eased, I went in search of local sports clubs and went out for walks (albeit alone without a four legged friend for a company). I couldn’t believe how strange it felt – I was an outsider, new to the area. In younger years this would not be an issue, yet here I was really having to force myself.

And I’m glad I did, as I now do belong to a number of clubs and have started to make new friends – this unfamiliar place is now at last starting to feel like home! Most importantly I hope this will be the last move – God willing I am here to stay put!

Trish: Another Lockdown, Another Year

Monday 1 February 2021:

Well, here we are in another lockdown and another New Year. The positive news is we now have vaccines, which are being rolled out at a pace, and the daily numbers of Covid cases are starting to decline. We can just hope this is a sign of getting on top of this disease. Then we will get back to volunteering, and our lives will be back to something like normal.

Strangely, there are parts of lockdown that I actually quite like. No deadlines to meet, no pressures of work. I do not miss shopping or holidays or eating out. I find I can live quite happily without most of that. I do so miss the family, friends, colleagues and freedom though. How we took freedom for granted! Positive thinking will get us through this.

Since last year, I have moved from Derby to Staffordshire – quite a challenge at the best of times but, when in semi-lockdown, rather strange. But we managed it by keeping two metres away from removal men and wiping everything down over and over again until we eventually got sorted.

The garden has become my great pleasure and where I can pass away these lockdown days. I am fast learning about all the different varieties of plants and how to care for them.

Then there is the wildlife. We have many birds in the garden, which we encourage to come back with the nuts and seeds we put out for them. I had never seen a Nuthatch until moving here – what a little beauty! The woodpeckers, bull finches and robins are lovely too.

Then there are the antics of squirrels – such acrobats. I actually saw two de-fleeing each other… I thought only monkeys did that!

I am going to try my hand at growing vegetables this year. Anyone out there with any hints or tips? We could set up a gardener’s questions and answers column! I currently have broad beans, tomatoes and leeks in seed trays in the greenhouse, which at the moment looks more like an igloo, as its covered in snow.

Keeping busy is the way to get through this and to that end I try to achieve something new each day, no matter how small. As long as it's achieved, it certainly makes you feel good.

Currently, while I cannot get out into the garden due to snow, I am doing a daily exercise routine. It's a challenge building yourself up to it, but once done – wow, how good you feel. There are lots of really great exercises online I'd recommend you have a look at. There is something to suit everyone.

I have also taken up knitting. My latest project is a blanket using the largest wooden needles I have ever seen. It is good to be doing this at the moment, as not only is it keeping me busy, it is also keeping me warm.

Sue: Before & After Covid

Thursday 1 October 2020:

What a difference four months makes! Covid certainly has seen the hustle and bustle of Community Action’s premises dissipate to a gentle hum.

When I began at Community Action early in 2020 and was volunteering on reception, the telephone was ringing often and people from all areas of work and life were regularly walking through the door. Appointments to see different people, or to come in to ‘learn their way’ were in full swing, and the diary was fully operational. Busy, busy, busy!

Then came lockdown. Communication between staff and volunteers continued with Zoom meetings and quiz nights, which were good fun and allowed us to keep in touch while the office was out of action.

July saw Community Action’s premises slowly return to life. Obviously, all the Covid guidelines were adhered to, to keep everyone feeling safe as they could be. There was some humour about a protective screen that Ejaz ordered – we were hoping for a few to arrive but we only received one. Thank Heavens for Vicci who put her skills to great use and made more screens to save the day and Ejaz’s embarrassment.

Rob and Stef returned to the office at the beginning of the relax of lockdown and are a lovely daily fixture. Ejaz is with us too, and Kate and Nina regularly. Jamie is working hard on getting Staywell Derby CIC at Saint Mary’s Gate set up; and we volunteers are sharing the time between us to come in to the office and offer our help.

It’s good to be back. I offered my help as soon as I could. I was desperate to see people and enjoy the lovely camaraderie that Community Action emits and that Covid had managed to put a blitz on in so many people’s lives.

We will get there! Let’s all continue to think positively, beat the fear and look forward to a 100% return to normality, so that everyone at Community Action can get back to doing what we do best – bringing people together! – and put Covid behind us once and for all.

Keep safe and cheerful, everyone.

Paul: LMW Booklet, Appointment, and Photography

Monday 7 September 2020:

Not much to report on the Digital Hero front, as the centre is not open for face-to-face meetings with clients yet. Rob is putting together a booklet for each user on Learn My Way. Part of the booklet will be a glossary of the terms used in each section. We are also creating onscreen exercises for the learners to complete. I said I will do some of this.

Last week (13th August) Rob sent out an email to all Digital Heroes asking if someone could contact a gentleman who is in need of some IT support. As I was sitting at my computer just at the moment the email came through, I was able to offer help.

After making contact with the client, between us we arranged a time for me to phone him back to help him with his problem. At the agreed time I rang him, only for the phone to go to voice mail. Tried a couple more times and the same thing. After contacting HQ, I was advised to leave it and await further advice.

On a different note – I had two placements in a photography competition in the last few days (16th August) a 2nd and a Highly Commended. Bit chuffed about that!

Sue: My Time at Community Action

Wednesday 2 September 2020:

I first contacted Community Action at the beginning of January, this year. I was interested in volunteering for the libraries. I met Nina and Stef, and Stef interviewed me. Before the interview, I chatted to both Nina and Stef and mentioned that I would really love the opportunity to work in administration, in some shape or form, that I was brushing up on my computer skills through an adult education course, and that I had attempted to apply for one or two part-time jobs but hadn’t been successful. I have worked for so many years in support and care work, have lots of experience and knowledge, but it was time for a change in direction for me – so if the chance arose to work in an administration role in support work, that would be good, too. Nina said that she would put my name forward to Kate, who deals with administration volunteering in the office, if I was interested. I was!

So I went to an introduction type of afternoon, regarding volunteering for the library work, then I went to help for 3 sessions and, in between, I received a call from Kate asking if I’d like to meet at Community Action about volunteering for admin roles. 

At the meeting Kate asked if I’d like to have an introductory session on reception. I agreed and went along the following Monday. As soon as the morning was over, when I’d learned how to transfer calls, and to enter certain information in the advisors diaries, I knew that I would love the work and Rob booked me to come along  for another session, later in the week.

After a week or so of volunteering at both the library in Oakwood and at Community Action, I decided that  the ‘busyness’ of CA was more me, and opted out of volunteering at Springwood.

So here I am: Covid reared its ugly head, just as I was getting into the swing of things. But once I learned that people were again returning to work in the office, in July, I asked if I may go along, to help in any way. Rob sorted it, and I am now back and feeling so much a part of the family here at Community Action. I have been learning new skills on the computer and getting the volunteer roles updated because of the pandemic. Rob is now helping me with other skills on the computer, and hopefully, once I return to my course in September, together with Rob’s help and my own ‘homework’ – well I’ll be brilliant on the computer, and there will be no stopping me doing things digitally!

I can honestly say that of all the volunteering that I’ve done over the years, Community Action has proved to  be one of the most rewarding roles. I have been made to feel welcome and useful! And as a person, you are encouraged to develop your own skills, whether that be in an admin role, in an advisory role or befriending role, whatever. So I’d say come along and join the family, because if you are struggling with life, want to enhance your job prospects or just have some company, the team at Community Action are great!

Jeanette: Wednesday night is …Quiz Night!

Monday 10 August 2020:

I have always had a mind full of useless information and been a bit of a quiz buff. When Rob suggested a quiz night, I was keen to play. Now, eleven weeks on, it has become a ritual, with a regular bunch of stalwarts with Rob as Quiz Master. However, new talent would be most welcome!!

We have had a wide variety of subjects from Acronyms, Cocktails and Gaming, to Sci-Fi and Sport. If like me, you pluck up the courage, you can host your own round too.

Quiz Night serves several functions. It keeps your brain ticking over and you can improve you PowerPoint skills if you host a quiz. You get a night out with your mates without leaving the comfort of your armchair. It has kept us together through the hard times we have had. If you are triumphant, there is chocolate.

What’s not to love?!

Trish: Telephone Befriending

Tuesday 04 August 2020:

Well – 2020 has sure been different!!

We found ourselves locked down and isolated from our friends and families – an experience we have never encountered the likes of.

Everyone will have had different ways of dealing with this situation. Many of us found new ways to keep busy. We learned different skills (cooking, painting, sewing, knitting, to name but a few).

It was a time to think about those very isolated, who maybe have no family or friends nearby or suffering from an physical or mental illness.

It was with this in mind that I started to do befriending for a few hours a week. I telephone various people just for a chat, to find out how they are coping and how they are doing in general. Initially, this not knowing the person was quite daunting, but after a few questions I got to know them and a bond was formed – albeit on the end of the telephone! 

After many weeks of befriending, I feel I have made a difference to the lives of people that were struggling to cope – it is always good to talk often. What seems like an impossible or difficult situation becomes easier after talking it through. 

We have had some lovely chats and, by the end of the call, plenty of laughs, which is the key in my book.  Feeling happy in these difficult times is a good place to be. My aim is to achieve a happy person by the end of my call. 

To this end, after nearly five months, I am still calling people each week. They hopefully look forward to my call. In some cases I am the only voice they hear during the week. Hopefully, now lockdown is easing, they will be able to see more people and get back into society. 

Volunteering for this particular role has made me feel that I have – albeit in a very small way – contributed to the wellbeing of a few people who have found life more of a challenge.

Paul: LMW and Missing Family

Monday 27 April, 2020:

Well here we are into our fourth week of lockdown and slowing running out of jobs to do in the house and garden! We have decorated, tidied, cleaned, vacuumed and mowed.  

I had only been with Community Action as a Digital Champion for three weeks before they stopped having clients coming in. The clients that we see use a learning programme called Learn My Way, which covers the basics of computers and how you can use them. It is only a brief overview and something I might look at is a follow-on course with MS Office, starting with Excel. The idea being to learn enough to feel comfortable using Office, not to be an expert. That’s a project for later.

Like a lot of people, I am missing my family. Text and video calls are not the same as giving someone a hug. “Don't it always seem to go. That you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?” (guess the song). We all take for granted the simple things in life and this lockdown might help us refocus on each other.

Hope you are all keeping safe in these difficult times.

Trish: Lockdown!

Monday 6 April, 2020

Hi All

How our lives have changed dramatically over the last few weeks! Here’s what I have been up to during week 1 of LOCKDOWN.

Having always been an early riser, my normal day would start around 5am – the day would be packed full until around 9pm, when I would eventually stop.  Nowadays I struggle to get up before 8.30-9am and, as if in slow motion, things that I didn’t even register doing before fill the best part of the morning – housework, ironing, cleaning, preparing meals.

I have taken to writing a diary. Not only will it be something to look back on when all this is over but it will help me remember what day and date it is – these days very easily blend into one and I lose track of time! I did manage to remember APRIL FOOLS DAY and caught my partner – he went into the utility in search of a mouse!! After a photograph and a little time, I enlightened him on the date!!!! Hilarious … for me anyway!

To keep reasonably fit I have a strict routine of exercise: once in the morning and once in the afternoon. We currently live in an apartment and only have a balcony, which is certainly better than nothing; but I so miss a garden. The view from our apartment is over Derby Cathedral, where the resident falcon lives and any day soon will be laying eggs – I believe they have cameras up there which will be activated as soon as the key to unlock the camera is found! In the meantime, type into google vc57uk or visit their YouTube channel to see action from previous years.

My iPhone has become like another limb: it brings friends and family together like never before. I FaceTime my grandchildren most days: they are so accepting – life has changed for them so much yet they seem to have all adjusted well.  Once a week my tennis pals get together via Zoom and we have an hour or so of quizzes and games – another great way to keep focused and the boredom away!

Keep safe everyone


Paul Green: My First Client

Monday 9 March 2020:

Today was my second session as a digital champion. As Jeanette was off today, the plan was for me to shadow Gary. However, the 11:00 client turned up at 10:00. Instead of Gaynor waiting for an hour, Gary suggested that I start the process off.

Gaynor is not familiar with computers and does not have an email address. So, the first job was to create an email address and get her registered on Learn My Way.

As this went well, I suggested that I carry on and take the session. After a brief chat it was decided what subjects we would initially cover and then review.

We started with Using Your Computer – there are four courses in this. The first one being Using a keyboard, which was completed.

That was all we had time for this session. A further session was booked for Monday 9th.

I was not expecting to take the session this week, but it went well and Gaynor said she enjoyed herself.

Now that I have my own client, I will be able to monitor her progress.

Khadijah: My First Week

Thursday 5 March 2020:

It’s my first week at Community Action. I am working as a Reception and Admin Volunteer. My job requires answering lots of incoming phone calls and helping visitors sign in and out. Other little tasks I’ve been introduced to include booking appointments, admin duties, assisting visitors with their queries and sorting the notice board.

I’ve been volunteering since I was a teenager. My recent role was during University where I worked as a Volunteer Sales Assistant in a local charity shop. Sorting clothing and stock, putting items for sale and taking payments at the till were just a few of the many duties I was assigned with.

I’m volunteering at Community Action Derby as I would love to boost my confidence, skills and gain some experience in Admin and Reception work. My aim is to find full time employment in a role within the Human Resources field. I believe that this experience will be very valuable for my future and help me to gain an insight into the world of Admin duties.

Paul Green: My First Day

My name is Paul Green and this is my first blog as a Digital Champion – or, as I prefer, Digital Hero – for Community Action. Today I shadowed Jeanette, who was seeing three clients.

Monday 2 March 2020:

David H

This was David’s last day, as he has completed the modules that he wanted to. David just wanted help on email and how to use the internet. From last week’s session with Jeanette, David was having trouble with Yahoo email. We had a look at it today and it seems okay, so it might have sorted itself out without our help or it could have been the difference between an upper- or lower-case letter. David left with his certificate and Jeanette will ring him in two weeks’ time.


Unlike David, Sephia does not have a computer but uses a mobile phone to access the internet. She has completed Online Basics previously and now moved on to Online Safety which was completed this session. The next module that Sephia wanted to start was More Internet Skills, which was only just started. Sephia will pick up her certificate for the modules she has completed when she next comes in. Last thing to do was she informed her work coach of the training session.

David B

Having completed Job Hunting, David moved on to Public Services module and is now working through this unit. David uses the audio function with headphones, as he struggles a little bit with reading and finds headphones more comfortable to use. He will pick up his certificate on his next session.

This was the first time I have done any voluntary work that involves training. All three clients were completely different in what their abilities are and what they wanted to achieve. David H wanted just some help with email and basic internet access. Sephia has some knowledge of IT; she just needed the confidence to progress further and get back into work at a later date. David B does struggle with computers, but the course is helping him.

A new initiative that Community Action Derby is launching soon (4th & 11th March) is Achieve Your Potential. Instead of just IT training, this will have access to a range of options – help with your CV, IT skills, improve communication & improve your wellbeing.

So that was my first day. It must have gone well, as I am booked in next Monday. Then I will shadow Gary & Doug to see a different style of training.

Trish: Why I began Volunteering

Trish is a Reception & Admin Volunteer. She once had lunch with Boris Becker... Well, she didn't really have lunch with him. They just happened to be eating in the same room! She did wave at him, though.

Monday 10 February, 2020:

My name is Tricia. I moved to Derby in September 2019. I started volunteering at Community Action in October 2019, doing Reception and Admin work. 

My reasons for joining Community Action was in the first instance to increase my reception and technology  skills, to get to know Derby and the surrounding area with a view to volunteering in different sectors, and to meet new people.

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the Community Action Team. The Reception role is very diverse, with such a lot of interesting tasks and responding to the individual needs of the member of the public, who is looking for anything from hiring a room for a meeting to booking a Learn My Way tutorial. There is always someone there to help if you are unsure or need assistance with a technical problem. In December a number of the volunteers got involved with a “Pantomime”, which was enormous fun and was aired on Derby Sound!!

Through Community Action I have discovered different volunteering roles – I am a volunteer “meet and greet” at St Peters Church, and in my most recent role I am training to be a mentor at Children First Derby.

Stef: Universal Credit

Stef does reception, admin & advising here at Community Action.

Wednesday 18 December, 2019:

Today my volunteering experience was very challenging and at times complicated. I have been a volunteer since March 2019. I am an advisor, so I help individuals find volunteering roles, which I enjoy a lot, as I enjoy helping people. Today I helped an individual with something different to what I usually do, but I learned from it at the same time.

A gentleman wanted help with filling out an application form for universal credit. He wasn’t familiar with computers and didn’t know where to start with it. I am familiar with computers and I still found the process and some of the questions very stressful and frustrating at times. I did feel sorry for the gentleman, as even he said without my help he wouldn’t have known how to do it. That opened my mind and I was thinking about other people out there who are in the same situation as the gentleman today. 

This was the first time today I had filled in the form for someone. I am so pleased I have experienced this as I now know for next time the process of it and how much time it all takes. I could hopefully prepare the individual better next time.

I found the process very challenging, as the gentleman came in on his own, as he was the one who was claiming. After we had filled in the details about him, it then asked for details of the person who he lives with and gave us a claim linking code, but it wouldn’t let us process any further. The gentleman had to go and get his wife from home so she could fill in her details. Then the account would be a joint account.

At the end of it all, I felt relieved that we had finally managed to complete the application, and the gentleman was very pleased too.  

Stuart: My Volunteering Experience

Stuart, who is on the Prince's Trust Team Programme, is currently here on placement as a Reception & Admin Volunteer.

Wednesday 11 December, 2019:

My volunteering experience has been interesting. I have developed my current skillset, including my customer service and admin skills. I also learned how to use technology I didn’t know how to use before coming here, such as using the franking machine.

Community Action provides a wide range of opportunities for anyone who wants to volunteer with little to no limitations on the opportunities that are given. This is a positive, as it gives everyone the chance to find what they want to do and experience actual work experience in that field

My greatest challenge at Community Action has been getting use to using the telephone, as the telephone layout has been different from previous telephones I’ve used, especially when it comes to transferring calls to staff members.

I volunteer at Community Action to increase my current experience in reception and admin work to help prepare me for a full-time job within the business admin work sector.

Community Action has helped trained me in common office equipment, which will benefit me when I start full-time employment.

My role at Community Action is Reception & Admin Volunteer, so I’m the first point of contact for visitors as they come in the door - I always greet them with a smile. I also handle incoming calls and direct them to the appropriate staff member. If the staff member is not in then I take a message and then email the staff member the message that has been left.

From my time at Community Action, I have learned about databases as well as the definition for signposting, how Community Action does it, and how it benefits them.