During Volunteers Week we would like to say a big THANK YOU to all our volunteers who have remained with Cedar during this challenging year. We appreciate your continued support and look forward to better times ahead.

It’s been such a difficult year and some of our volunteers have had to shield because of their age, underlying health conditions or because they are shielding for someone else in their family. Also, many of Cedar services moved to remote delivery and this and this made it difficult for some of our volunteers to stay engaged. These volunteers continue to be valued members of Cedar and we are looking forward to the time when we can welcome them back. One volunteer commented:

"The last year and a bit has been horrendous, I’ve missed volunteering, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully volunteering will soon be back for us all and the people we help."

It’s great that so many of our volunteers have been able to continue to support Cedar during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some have taken on new roles and learned new skills to accommodate remote volunteering using Zoom, phone conversations and e mail. This has been a great support to service users and staff with one volunteer commenting:

“During the Covid-19 lockdown many Cedar client's needs rapidly changed and, to be effective, staff as well as volunteers had to change and adapt to these new circumstances.

Technology came into its own during lockdown; Cedar installed Microsoft Teams on my home laptop so that I could continue to volunteer, with suitable protocols and supervision put in place. On the positive side, working from home enabled me to continue typing and updating data and even to increase my hours.  I was fortunate in having a patient and willing Volunteer Supervisor.  On the negative side, technology was shown to be a tad unreliable but, on the whole, I believe it was a positive step that enabled me to continue to volunteer, learn new skills and create a new personal routine.  Also, the Cedar staff who support the volunteers co-ordinated fortnightly Zoom chats with other volunteers so that we could keep in touch”.

We are delighted that we have continued to receive applications from new volunteers interested in supporting Cedar. We are continually developing new ways for volunteers to utilise their skills in a way that benefits both the volunteer and the organisation. One of our new recruits who is also a service user told us how important this opportunity is for her to gain experience and develop her skills, commenting:

"I have been inspired by all the staff who have supported me. You all have shown me that the world is my oyster, that I have so much to look forward to, so thank you all so much”.

Although we have all faced challenges this past year, Cedar’s volunteer service has adapted, finding new ways to provide a service that continues to offer support. The flexibility and willingness of volunteers to try new roles has enabled us to still be responsive to the needs of our service users. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic volunteers were limited to providing support in their local area but, by utilising technology, volunteers can now offer a remote service to Cedar services throughout Northern Ireland. One example of this during lockdown was a service user based in Newry accessing support from a volunteer in Ballymoney. This remote volunteering is an exciting addition to the volunteering service and will now be offered as a core opportunity.

Face to face volunteering has always been an integral part of the volunteer service, with volunteers providing 1:1 and groupwork support that is valued and appreciated by Cedar staff and service users. We look forward to our volunteers returning to these roles.

The volunteer team in Cedar would like to take this opportunity to THANK ALL OUR VOLUNTEERS and we look forward to meeting up and thanking you all in person when circumstances permit.