Published August 2014
This year we celebrate 10 years of the Investing in Volunteers Award. We talked to NewLink Wales - the very first organisation in Wales to be awarded the standard, back in 2005 . They have grown from strength to strength, with volunteering still at the heart of all they do.
NewLink Wales trains volunteers to get involved in the work of local substance misuse agencies. It also provides training for staff and promotes access to services within local communities. In this way it is building up the capacity
and effectiveness of substance misuse services in Wales.
Volunteers get a good understanding of substance misuse issues, often also gaining a qualification through their
learning. "Volunteering can open doors of opportunity for people" says Daljit Kaur Morris, Volunteer Operations Manager. "it allows people to take on new challenges and to meet new people. For those who have received
support in the past in can be a chance to give something back."
Ten years ago, when NewLink Wales first achieved the Investing in Volunteers award, they were celebrating the start of a new project, 'MILE... a distance travelled', which is for ex-service users who want to move from being a client to being a volunteer. It was the first of its kind.
Ex-users have many valuable experiences that can benefit others, but often they first need a bit of extra time or distance from their personal history before they are in a good position to support others. This is just what the MILE project provides, through group work and one to one sessions, tailored to each volunteer's own journey.
One volunteer said "MILE has prepared me to start volunteering, but most importantly it has given me the confidence to be able to work with others"
Ten years on, and the MILE project has also travelled a distance, from its early beginnings to the flourishing project is today.
A more recent venture is the 'NewSteps' programme which introduces opportunities for volunteering to current substance misusers, whilst they are undergoing treatment. "Some have undertaken conservation work, with a volunteer buddy for support" says Daljit Kaur Morris. "it helps to combat the boredom and isolation that
many people experience when they are going through their treatment programmes"
Achieving Investing in Volunteers
"We wanted to gain this accolade for our volunteering work" Daljit goes on to say " and we were very excited to be the first to achieve Investing in Volunteers in Wales It really showed our commitment to volunteers and helped us with recruitment. I think it enhanced our credentials with funders too".
"When new staff are appointed, they can see the benchmark that we are committed to working to, and this helps us to deliver a consistent standard. It just becomes a part of how we work".
NewLink Wales has renewed the award twice since 2005, to maintain their accolade of good practice. "By going through the renewal process every three years, we refresh ourselves and we try to be the best! We like to be a
role model for other organisations – and we do have a large sphere of influence".
"We want to say a massive thank you to the Investing in Volunteers team – especially to our assessors. They have made the whole process easy and it is a pleasure to work with you all"