Helping others column with Karen Weaver

Volunteer of the Year Paul with colleagues Sally and Stephen at North Yorkshire Horizons.
Volunteer of the Year Paul with colleagues Sally and Stephen at North Yorkshire Horizons.

Chief executive of Harrogate and Ripon Centres for Voluntary Service

Whether it’s at Chamber of Commerce meetings, council meetings or special events and celebrations, we work really hard to ensure the voice of the voluntary sector is heard and its vital contribution is acknowledged.

It was a pleasure to attend the launch of the Harrogate Hub and see the results of two years of careful planning to provide a welcoming new community venue in Harrogate town centre.

In the same week our Volunteering Support Worker took part in a Martin Luther King Day event at Menwith Hill, sharing information with staff and families about the wealth of volunteering opportunities on offer in our District, and recruiting new volunteers as a result.

Another example of how we can network and connect things up came via the Harrogate District Volunteering Oscars.

I had the chance to go along and meet 2016 Volunteer of the Year winner Paul, along with Stephen and colleagues, at the North Yorkshire Horizons charity, which provides drug and alcohol recovery services in our area.

Volunteers play a vital role in their work, offering invaluable peer support and mentoring. When combined with the more formal clinical and therapeutic support which is available this way of working is proven to be effective in supporting people along the road to recovery.

As a result of his peer support volunteering, Paul has identified that many of the people he supports are struggling to cope with changes to the benefits system and so I was pleased to put him in touch with key contacts at the Council to discuss his ideas on tackling this.

Looking ahead, we’re working in partnership with other charities and businesses to promote national Disabled Access Day on Saturday 11 March. This national initiative aims to encourage more venues and organisations to ensure disabled people are truly welcomed. Then the following weekend we’ll be taking part in the third Sights and Sounds of Ripon partnership event (Saturday 18 March).

Our role as a charity is to support other local charities and volunteers to make the Harrogate District a great place in which to live and work.

We attend meetings and read lots so that hard-pressed charity staff and volunteers don’t have to. All that meeting, talking, networking, editing, understanding and sharing is like the part of the iceberg below the waterline, unseen but supporting everything we do to ensure a thriving voluntary and community sector.

As you may already know, here at HARCVS we now find ourselves facing a major funding challenge of our own, with the North Yorkshire County Council and NHS funding we’ve benefited from for many years being awarded to a new provider based in York from Saturday 1 April.

Our board of trustees must now plan for a new future and work through very challenging issues in relation to staffing and budgets. It has been heartening to receive many messages of support since the news was announced, and this makes us determined to ensure that our local charities and volunteers continue to receive the support they deserve in the future.

For more info visit www.harcvs.org.uk.