York Cares annual Stakeholder Meeting

This guest blog was written by Hannah Land, the Marketing and Communications intern at York Cares, who is volunteering with the charity whilst studying English and Linguistics at the University of York.

When I was invited to attend York Cares’ annual Stakeholder Meeting (my first ever meeting of this kind), I was mainly excited for the opportunity to visit Aviva’s lovely office building and to make the most of the complementary refreshments. Needless to say, I was extremely surprised to be going that home completely enthused about the meeting itself instead. The overarching message of sharing your skills really resonated with me. After having read countless op-ed’s about the problems caused by so-called ‘voluntourism’; I loved being able to listen to speakers who were passionately engaged in finding a better way to make a difference.

The main takeaway message I had was that the things you do every day can be used to make other people’s lives better. Helping someone put together a financial plan for their first year as a charity may not look like what some may think of as volunteering – but it can have a massive impact. By volunteering our time in this way, we are volunteering smarter – taking less time to make a bigger impact. It just makes sense.

In her speech, Alison Cole, People Consultant from Aviva discussed the involvement of members of Aviva’s Women’s Network with the Girls Enrichment Mentoring Scheme. She described her Aviva team as somewhat lacking in self-confidence when they began volunteering as part of York Cares’ Aspirations programme. By the end of the experience, Cole found that everyone had benefitted – “Every volunteer that takes part comes away buzzing, feeling that they have made a difference for that young person in that short period, they also come away wondering what else they can do to help”. The employee-volunteers found increases to their own confidence from helping young women in York boost theirs. Simply sharing what you do day to day can have a massive impact on the individual and the community.

The meeting gave me the perspective to realise what makes York Cares so special. I was able to see where York Cares fits in as part of the wider volunteering strategy for the city, as introduced by Sue Collins, Joe Micheli and Jo Baker from York CVS, City of York Council and International Service. This new volunteering strategy is being developed with key partners in the city and will deliberately focus on long term successes and setting sustainable goals

As part of this strategy, York Cares can enable employee-volunteers to help out where they are needed most, deliberately focusing on the challenges that face York – health inequality, education, the environment and the care of the city’s older people. York Cares enables their employee-volunteers to make a real difference and empower the local community. As Dr Burchell (University of Sheffield) put it in his keynote speech– “the more people come together, the more we understand each other”. The focus becomes responding to the needs of the community by seeing whether our skills can fill that need.