The Value of Volunteers
Posted on July 19th, 2018 at 10:13AM
Systems are set up to provide organised assistance. Yet plenty of people find themselves in a need with falls through the gaps, either because no system exists for that need or because the system can't move quickly enough or lacks sufficient resources.
In some places the people in need therefore find themselves with nowhere to turn to. However, in many other places there is one to step into that gap: the volunteer.
I was impacted by many things during my day with Reverend Lyn Kenny at HM Prison Humber and All Saints Church in South Cave, East Yorkshire. However, the things that struck me most was how amazing volunteers are and what a huge contribution to society they make.
All of our advocates are volunteers for Acts 435 and quite simply the charity would not exist without them. Some of our advocates are paid by their church or charity for other work that they do, but Acts 435 is something extra they take on, aware of the needs that arise where Acts 435 can fill a gap.
Let me share about two wonderful women who really are 'spending themselves' on behalf of those less fortunate than themselves with passion, love and deep belief in the value of what they do. In return they should be highly valued.
Reverend Lyn Kenny met me at HMP Humber where she is soon to become a salaried chaplain. However, to date all her work there has been voluntary and it was amazing to see her commitment and passion for what she was doing. It is a sobering experience to visit a prison and on a spiritual level I was challenged by the Christian inmates I spoke to and the depth of their enthusiasm for their faith.
Lyn has pioneered bringing Acts 435 into the prison environment and has used it to help both families of prisoners who are struggling financially, as well as inmates leaving prison, often with very little to try and make a go of life back on the outside. Given the bureaucracy of the prison service, to get Acts 435 up and running required perseverance and determination. Thankfully these are traits Lyn has in bucketloads. It did not surprise me to hear that she hasn't been a vicar all her life but an intensive care nurse. I imagine she was a highly efficient nurse with a wonderful no-nonsense approach.
Lyn is pictured below at the family centre, where the families of prisoners come first before they are given access to the prison. She is pointing at a poster that the prisoners themselves designed to make Acts 435 relevant and accessible for the prison setting. Since Lyn started volunteering at the prison she has been able to help a number of a families with essentials such as a washing machine.
I met the Head of Rehabilitation at HMP Humber and she was so impressed with how simple Acts 435 was. She shared about the hidden victims of prison and that most of the value of Acts 435 lies in that. Lyn has helped prisoners trying to get back on their feet as they leave - one with a guitar because he had been enjoying learning and playing within the prison and to be able to gift him one as he left was to give him a key way to help with his rehabilitation in the community. Another received a microwave and kettle because he left with nothing. Simple things but that can make a big difference.
After an eye-opening trip to the prison (it is difficult not to be impacted by such a contrast to everyday life), I was privileged to meet another amazing volunteer with whom Lyn has also made links to use Acts 435.
Caroline Potter is doing an amazing work with a new charity called Hull Homeless Community Project and she is doing it all without receiving a salary. The charity is not able to pay a salary and yet that has not stopped her throwing life and soul into the work. She spoke with such passion about the women she helps get settled into housing. Acts 435 is a great resource for them because of the speed with which an item can be provided.
She was bringing a referral to Lyn for Acts 435, a 19 year old who had lived in hostels since she was 16, had no family support and an awful upbringing. Caroline had found her supported accommodation but the young lady was only receiving £90 a fortnight after reductions. When she asked about a washing machine because she wants to be clean and feel settled, Caroline wanted to jump on that request and make it happen.
'After the background she's had, it's a wonder she even knows how to dress herself!' was how Caroline expressed it. I was humbled that Acts 435 could step in to make such a difference - and even more delighted that I had just the day before opened a cheque specifically for Hull requests and so could meet the need immediately.
Providing someone with a white good might not be the most exciting thing to do, but I have seen time and time again what a difference it makes. This young lass is pregnant, due in August, and has been trying to wash her clothes in the bath. To be able to wash your clothes, cook food and store it in a fridge - we take it for granted but over the years we have provided literally hundreds of washers, cookers and fridges to people who cannot possibly afford them on their own.