The voluntary and community sector (VCS) is independent from local and national government, and distinct from the private sector. Charities are the largest single category within the voluntary sector. VCS organisations can vary significantly in size from small local groups, run exclusively by volunteers, to large national charities.
Every day, millions of people volunteer with one of these organisations.
In Sussex, there are a wide range of brilliant voluntary and community sector organisations who work to improve the health and wellbeing of the local population. Here are some of their stories.
Mark Burton from Hailsham used his professional skills to volunteer for Chestnut Tree House as a chef.
“I was working three days a week as Head Chef of a Brighton hotel and had time to spare.” explained Mark. “So I decided to help at Chestnut Tree House, a Sussex hospice for life-limited children and their families, one day a week. They do so much good there, and by doing some cooking, catering, and really just anything practical they needed, I was able to help, too.”
Mark hasn’t always volunteered, but – as he feels many people do when they find themselves a little bored – he simply wanted to give something back.
Just like he did in September 2019 when he trained for and completed the Trailwalker Team Challenge in aid of fundraising for the Queen’s Gurkhas in conjunction with Oxfam. Trekking 100km over the Sussex Downs is no easy feat, but Mark enjoyed every minute! Mark has also cooked for the homeless in Brighton and, if he can find the right organisation, says he would love to do that again.
When asked what he has got out of volunteering, Mark said:
“Satisfaction. I’m fortunate to have what I have and being able to put a smile on somebody else’s face is a very rewarding thing to do.”
Read more stories from 3VA who champion the local voluntary sector in Eastbourne, Lewes and Wealden.
“I see people with a range of issues from depression or anxiety to physical health issues. I think seeing a Social Prescribing Volunteer does make a difference. Just being there, listening. It’s lovely meeting people and it’s never the same. I feel more aware of the issues that people face and it’s made me more open to different people.”
“As a volunteer I commenced my placement in January 2021 with a visit to the hospital whereby I supported a Muslim woman in the different stages of her delivery, as a former midwife who had not been in the hospital for 12 years it was a great form of excitement and curiosity to me to have this opportunity. I was in a privileged position to be an advocate for the lady who was very much out of her comfort zone.
“My interest in culture, diversity, and opportunity for all, was already fostered through my past experience but it began to develop and grow as a volunteer. Considering Covid and an awareness of the importance of connectivity I tried with support from my supervisor from TDC to organize multicultural support group activities for women. Initially it was in zoom and it will now be moving face to face. We have established in collaboration with another organization a regular event in gardens for women only whereby they can chat to each other, learn some gardening according to their interest or just lap up the beauty of the great outdoors. This project has got off to a great start and I hope it will continue to bloom.
“As a Health Promotion student and Registered nurse, the Vaccine Hesitancy programme got my interest, and I have as a volunteer worked with Trust for Developing Communities staff to create flyers and deliver them to areas where there is hesitancy. This is very interesting as it links the theory that I am learning in the University to the need for practical approaches”
In a relatively isolated seaside town, Selsey Community Forum is a partnership of local voluntary organisations which, in cooperation with the statutory and commercial sectors, seeks to identify and meet local needs.
Selsey Care Shop was the base for the Mutual Aid (COVID-19) Group, working in partnership with 20 local organisations. Selsey Community Forum offered to take the lead, which meant that 140 buddies (volunteers) provided food, practical help and support for those shielding or self-isolating, a lending library was set-up etc. and this has all worked very well for local people.
Selsey Community Forum set up food supply supported by Selsey Foodbank, Harvest UK, locals suppliers and take away outlets. They encouraged people to support local businesses. And a buddy system, WhatsApp and Facebook groups were up and running by late March. People knew where help was. Selsey Community Forum also coordinated with the West Sussex County Council Hub – particularly for those shielding.
The Buddy System has helped people be more aware of looking out for each other and aware of each other. Selsey is by the sea and there is always a threat of flooding and we have shown how an emergency response for vulnerable people can be pulled together quickly – as the community is already there and there is trust and relationships formed.