Mandy opened with a brief word about the Access to Work scheme, a government grant scheme which supports disabled people in work. She was keen to ensure that students were aware of the scheme and impressed upon them to apply for the grant as soon as they had secured paid work.
She then spoke about the broad range of services on offer at HVOSS which include a Volunteer Bureau which helps pair people with appropriate volunteering within Herefordshire; the Community Wheels Service which is a taxi service for people in need; No Wrong Door, a youth service for young people aged 11-25 which offers a range of support and, a recent project, in conjunction with Herefordshire Council, called Talk Community, which provides volunteers to respond in emergencies, like the recent floods in Hereford and the pandemic.
Mandy is also responsible locally for the Building Better Opportunities (BBO) programme. It’s part of a national programme funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and the European Social Fund and the aim is to support people into work, volunteering and training. Anyone can apply aged 19+ and not working. It’s a one-to-one tailored support programme and help is offered with improving confidence, skills and employability. At this point Mandy introduced Louise to share her experiences of the BBO scheme.
[picture above shows Louise addressing the audience with her guide dog standing at her side]
Louise has been part of the programme for approximately two years. After leaving RNC around 10 years ago with Business Administration qualifications, Louise struggled to get a job, so explored volunteering opportunities.
She began volunteering at Herefordshire Vision Links and was part of their front of house team undertaking reception duties and giving general help and advice. After six or seven years Louise felt she needed a change and connected with HVOSS and discovered BBO and the Befriending Service.
She thoroughly enjoyed her new role and visited a local retirement complex once a week to have face to face befriending sessions but then lockdown stopped everything. Louise suddenly felt very isolated but came up with a positive solution by continuing the befriending sessions over the phone.
At the same time, Mandy and her colleagues at HVOSS started their foray into the world of Zoom and set up fun activities like quizzes and group baking for the HVOSS community. They even held a 13-hour charity Bake-a-thon!
As everyone became more used to the technology It also allowed the HVOSS team to continue their work with useful online workshops like CV writing and role play interviews.
The weekly baking sessions really took off. They started off small but week by week, more and more people joined in and the group would bake together in real time. More and more recipes were being exchanged and Mandy decided to put them together in a book to form a timeline of the journey together over the year.
Each member of the HVOSS community had a very different story to tell of their experiences through lockdown – some very positive and some extremely difficult.
The book cleverly titled ‘Baking a Difference’, is a mixture of recipes and individual lockdown stories, forming an interesting historical record of the year.
RNC’s Braille Transcription Service has been employed to produce the book in Braille and, Covid regulations permitting, Mandy hopes to do a book launch at RNC with some of the contributors, many of whom are ex RNC students.
Mandy and Louise were really interesting speakers, demonstrating how volunteering can help with developing new skills, enhance confidence and offer friendship. They also provided fascinating social comment on what life was like in lockdown for the HVOSS community.
Huge thanks to Mandy and Louise, with Andrew, for taking the time to visit RNC and share the opportunities available with our students.
[picture above shows Louise with guide dog, Andrew, and Mandy standing in front of a group of RNC students]