Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets | Voices of Change

Here at What Can We Do? we strive to promote a better and fairer world through civic engagement, and that is why we launched the Voices of Change guest blog series.

We want to amplify the voices of a variety of different charities, community groups and individuals from home and abroad. While highlighting how COVID-19 has impacted them, how kindness plays a role in what they do, how people can get involved to support them and what the ideal future looks like.

Our special guest today is Peppe Rella, the Communications Coordinator at Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets, discussing the work they do to encourage volunteering in their community through COVID-19 and beyond, and how you can get involved and volunteer in Tower Hamlets.

Tell us about yourself and your organisation. Where do you work and what is your role?

My name is Peppe, I am the Communications Coordinator at Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets (VCTH). VCTH promotes volunteering in Tower Hamlets in East London. We promote volunteering by helping local organisations develop their volunteer roles. We also work with local residents, workers and students by offering a wide variety of volunteer roles and helping them choose the perfect role for them. We work very closely with Tower Hamlets Council and they have funded our COVID response through the Covid-19 Tower Hamlets Volunteering Hub.

How has COVID-19 affected the work that VCTH does? Will your work ever go completely ‘back to normal’?

I really can’t say if our work will ever go back to normal. We used to deliver face-to-face advice to volunteers and in person training for local organisations. We are delivering pretty much the same services but using different channels. We use Zoom to deliver training and a mix of telephone support, email support, social media and messaging apps to support volunteers.

Tell us about the role of kindness in your work. Any inspiring stories you can share?

Kindness really kept us going at the beginning of the pandemic. We received a deluge of interest from local residents that wanted to help. We received in the first two weeks 2,000 volunteer registrations, which is more than double the number of registrations we receive in a year. The people registering to volunteer wrote short notes in their registration forms telling us why they wanted to volunteer and how they wanted to help in the middle of a health crisis. So yes the kindness, generosity, sometimes bravery, of the local residents kept us going.

We contacted some of the volunteers after their COVID volunteering experiences. Some of the quotes we received are incredibly moving;  One of the volunteers said “interacting with people from various sectors of society has taught me a great deal about the weird and wonderful journey called life. And honed in the principles my parents brought me up with, that 'the most important things in life are not things”. Followed by a different volunteer; “Volunteering is really a unique experience in life. Fear faded away while volunteering”

How can people help/get involved with what VCTH is doing during COVID-19? 

Many local organisations still need help. Anyone living, working or studying in Tower Hamlets can register on our website www.vcth.org.uk. Once they’re registered we can email them alerts with the latest volunteer roles. On our website there is also a list of volunteer roles currently recruiting, which allows interested volunteers to apply in a few clicks.

COVID-19 is not over yet. So we are still offering volunteer roles like telephone befriending, contacting isolated local residents, on a weekly basis, to check on them, find out if they need help and see how they are coping. We are offering a few new roles for anyone interested in tackling food poverty and providing activities for local children.

We do take donations on our website www.vcth.org.uk.

What is the most amazing act of kindness you have seen during the COVID-19 crisis?

Too many to mention. A local 80 year old registered to volunteer and actually volunteered at one of the local food hubs and as a Park Ranger talking to park users about social distancing. Incredible when you think that elderly volunteers are much more at risk of COVID-19.

What does the ideal future look like for you? What positives would VCTH like to see come out of this crisis?

I am not sure about the future. The main lesson should be that volunteer infrastructure, like VCTH, and local charities need funding to survive. Organisations like ours, as well as local charities, enable the mobilisation of kindness, altruism, willingness to help that are so widespread in our local communities. We can turn these amazing feelings into an effective effort, ensuring that help is directed where it’s most needed, in a way that is safe for volunteers and for the people receiving help.

Peppe Rella

Communications Coordinator


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Do you want to be our next guest blogger for our Voices of Change blog series or want to write for our Spotlight series? Then please get in touch.

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