SHA Launches a Volunteer Club during the Coronavirus pandemic! The SHA Volunteer Program has been running for over 10 years now and has been wildly successful at extending support post 18 and providing service users with the opportunities to gain valuable skills, knowledge and work experience. SHA Volunteers have been passing on the skills they learnt as service users to the younger children and have been doing an amazing job.
The staff at SHA are so proud of the amazing work that all our volunteers have done over the years and recognise how valuable their contributions are to the great work we do here at SHA.
It is for this reason that SHA staff were keen to get the volunteers into their own club when it became apparent that due to the COVID restrictions brought into place last year, we could not have the volunteers attend the group sessions with the service users.
A little bit of background….
The need for this volunteer programme became apparent when one of our first ever members reached the age of 18. Funding for young people to access our snooker sessions tend to stop once an individual reaches the age of 18. This means that for many of our members, reaching this milestone means that they would no longer be able to attend the club.
Over the years we have found that most of the young people that attend our club do not want to leave when they reach 18. As many of you know, the transition into adult-life can be a daunting experience, but can be even more so if that involves taking away the things you enjoy! Because of this, every member that attends our sessions has the opportunity to enrol onto our volunteer programme.
What is our volunteer programme?
Our Volunteer Programme gives members the opportunity to continue attending sessions, and encourages them to take more of an upfront role in coaching others and passing their learnt skills onto the other children and young people that attend our service.
The programme also enables members to continue playing the sport they love, socialising with their friends and become more confident in delivering snooker coaching. Additionally, our volunteers can also gain valuable work experience from this, being closer with the staff members and working as part of the team.
This programme has worked exceptionally well over the years and many of our volunteers have progressed onto the staff team and have been offered a paid position. However, more recently, due to the pandemic and the restrictions and limited capacity that it brings, our volunteers have been unable to attend sessions. During the first lockdown, we were keeping in touch with our volunteers over the phone and via ZOOM sessions. We have found that coming to snooker and socialising with friends is a very important part of people’s lives, especially when everything else around that has come to a stop (i.e. college, work). It gives people something to look forward to, a bit of normality and an escape from all the chaos of today’s world.
In response to this, when we came out of lockdown we thought enough is enough! Throughout the summer holidays, we put on a weekly session, just for our volunteers, to enable them to catch-up and play snooker in a safe environment. Furthermore, in September we received funding which has enabled us to put on weekly sessions for our group of volunteers up until March. The weekly snooker sessions with our service users were wildly successful and all the volunteers were able to attend, play snooker, meet their friends and access the support they need from SHA.
The Volunteer Club sessions were amazing fun and we played snooker, ran games and quizzes, did some dancersize and exercise sessions and really had fun as well as helping and supporting each other through these difficult times.
Jonathan remarked that: "I felt genuinely depressed when I couldn't come to snooker (due to COVID), so the volunteer club was a great opportunity for me" and Joe said that: "The Academy has been a great help, if I hadn't joined the disability group I would have probably never picked up a cue and would've been stuck at home not doing much."
We are so glad that we were able to provide this support and these fun group sessions during lockdown to help our volunteers cope with the difficulties of isolation and lockdown. We were able to do this great work thanks to the generosity of the National Lottery Community Fund, The Social Enterprise Support Fund and Resonance. From the SHA team I would like to say a massive thankyou to these organisations for their help in supporting our volunteers and say a massive "well done" to all of our volunteers who have worked so hard to overcome their struggles during lockdown and make the volunteers club a huge and fun success.