The wise old saying “Necessity is the mother of invention” could have been invented for the current crisis. At the beginning of the lockdown, like many other people from a variety of backgrounds, I asked myself the questions: What can I do? Is there a way of applying my skill set to the current crisis, that goes beyond my usual practice?
Then the government sent out its call for a volunteer army. And when over 650,000 people signed up on the GoodSAM app, I was filled with optimism and dread in equal measures. Optimism – that so many people wanted to help, and dread - that sometimes, unguided help can turn into hindrance. This is not a glamorous message.
All the same, my training and experience have shown me that helping is not always straightforward. Sometimes less is more. It seemed that new volunteers, who would be delivering medicine and food, weren’t going to receive training to think about helping dilemmas. Food delivery isn’t really the area of expertise of a counsellor or a therapist but thinking about helping relationships is. And thinking about gaps in service and how to respond to them is what I am calling the Social Response Cycle.
Maybe my set of skills could be put to some use. I spent an entire weekend trying to work out what to do. It turns out the answer was (unsurprisingly) “Don’t do this on your own.” It turns out that lots of other people were also wondering what they could do with their skills - including a script writer, a film editor, a musician, a designer and an actor, as well as my friends and family members!
So together, in 10 days, a small group of us, each working remotely out of our homes in Plymouth, Reading, London, Winchester, Oxford and San Francisco, conceived, wrote, filmed and edited a six-minute training film for this pandemic: Volunteers without Tears. Please share it with anyone/any organisation you know, who is working with new volunteers in the community.
Amazingly, the film is having an impact already. Sharon, a project worker, in Cardiff told us: “I found the film really helpful to back up some of the things I have been trying to get through to management over the last few weeks… policies and procedures!”
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Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.