It has been an exciting time for me, getting to know many of our wonderful volunteers and hearing about the work that they do, the challenges they face, and working to establish how best I can support them in my role.
Our new Harrogate Lupus Support Group has had two meetings so far and is now on the group page of the website. We are testing the water in Salisbury, as to whether there is an appetite for a group there, and I am working with volunteers in West London, Hampshire and Aberdeen to establish groups in those locations, as well as looking to revive the North East group. If anyone would be interested in starting a group in an area where we don’t currently have one, then please contact me. The new groups are starting as simple coffee and chat groups, with no committee or financial responsibilities etc., as was the case in the regional groups previously. We hope that by simplifying the structure, then we will be able to increase our reach to areas where we are not able to offer support currently.
I have had an online meeting with a group of our Contacts, and I am meeting individually with any Contacts who could not attend, either online or by telephone.
I wanted to give all our Contacts the opportunity to discuss how they have found things during the pandemic, and their thoughts about the Contacts service generally, as well as how we can develop the service in the future. We would like to forge stronger links between the Contacts, the Support Groups and the HealthUnlocked online forum, so that they become a more cohesive support offering, rather than being disjointed. The first step in developing the service is for me to learn from the experience of those who have been involved in the service for so long – in some cases for decades!
The meeting also gave those who attended a chance to chat with other Contacts, which worked very well, and I will be looking to hold these get-togethers, probably quarterly, so that our Contacts feel more connected to the charity and to each other.
The consensus between those at that meeting is that as the world has changed during the pandemic, with a focus on communication through technology, then the sensible course is to develop our Contacts service using that same technology, this may be by offering virtual meetings, or email conversations. I’ll be looking at these options in the coming months and consulting further with the Contacts team.
One of my most important tasks going forward will be to look into training for our volunteers, no matter what they are doing on our behalf. We want to make sure that all our volunteers feel well equipped and supported to fulfil whatever function they are undertaking on behalf of LUPUS UK.
We are currently looking into the possibility of training me to be able to deliver tailored training to our volunteers in-house. We believe that this will enable us to be flexible in our approach to training, and make us more able to respond to the needs of our volunteers, and also to easily “on-board” new volunteers, without looking to outside organisations for that training.
All of the developments mentioned above, I believe, will be beneficial to our members, our volunteers and the wider lupus community, as well as to the charity and I am excited to see where we go from here.
If anyone has any ideas, thoughts or worries that they would like to discuss with me, then please don’t hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at National Office on 01708 731 251.
Alida Horne, Volunteer Co-ordinator