It's all about the volunteers
Friday 5 February 2016

Brandon Trust Freedom AmbassadorsSo what’s with all this volunteering going on around us at the moment? I bet if you don’t do it yourself you know someone who does, be it an hour every so often or more.

Many charities find volunteer support invaluable, I know Brandon Trust certainly does. For us, we get to see the priceless reactions of the people we support, the direct beneficiaries, whether it’s the slightest smile of someone with multiple disabilities seeing their bedroom transformed in a DIY SOS style makeover, or someone being able to do that activity again, the one which had to stop when their funding was cut – and we know only too well the impact of government cuts in our sector!

This is one of the reasons we are so focussed on developing our volunteer workforce. We recognise the added value they can bring to the people we support. It can be really refreshing working alongside one of our volunteers. Quite often I take inspiration from them, their passion and willingness to give up their own time to help others to help others.

I’ve been fortunate to work alongside quite a few volunteers, painting walls, manning market stalls, exploring nature trails, all sorts really, and on Wednesday of this week I met some new student volunteers: the Freedom Ambassadors.

They’ll be working with us for the next couple of months, raising our profile and bringing their varying skills to Brandon teams, including the exciting social enterprises. Raising our profile is a big task in itself. Ask yourself this: How would I describe what a learning disability is? Or, ask three different people to describe the term. I bet you’ll get some interesting answers.

Saint Stephens Cafe BristolI met with the students, or should I say the Freedom Ambassadors, at one of Brandon’s cafés in Bristol - Saint Stephen’s Café - at the bottom of Corn Street. The team cooked us a selection of delicious nibbles including vegetable bhajis and mini beetroot and goats cheese panini – after all you can’t work on an empty stomach!

It was great to hear how they had each found Brandon, their journey so far, and why our work resonates with them so much. Some knew staff, some had shopped in our charity shops, and others had loved working with people with learning disabilities in the past. All had different backgrounds, and they’re studying everything from Russian to medicine, and engineering to law.

Their enthusiasm was impressive, infectious even, and I’m sure, like all our volunteers, they’re going to make a great contribution to Brandon.
Needless to say I went home smiling and energized.

Matt Boyle
Communications Events Manager