05 June, 2015
This week is National Volunteers’ Week where charities and community groups across the country proudly celebrate the work of volunteers. Without the assistant and efforts of our volunteers, the Colostomy Association would not be able to provide many of its services.
The Colostomy Association provides support to over 23,000 people with a stoma – through our 24-hour helpline, quarterly magazine, closed Facebook group, Junior Ostomy Support Helpline (JOSH) and other services. It surprises many people to learn that we have only six full-time members of staff and it is thanks to the work of our volunteers that we are able to run so many free services for people with a stoma.
Our helpline is staffed by trained volunteers who ensure that anyone is able to contact us at any time of day on any day of the year. Our helpliners have supported thousands of people through periods of stress, despair, fear and uncertainty – sharing their time and knowledge with anyone who needs help.
In 2009, the Colostomy Association created a new avenue for people with a stoma to find information, advice and support – our closed Facebook group. Individuals are able to ask for advice from other people living with a stoma, provide support themselves or simply get something off their chest. From small beginnings, the group has now grown to over 3,000 members and receives hundreds of posts each day. It is because of our Facebook volunteers that the group has become a warm and welcoming place for anyone looking for support.
Serving over 23,000 people with a stoma is no easy feat with our admin team busy every day organising rotas, sending out literature and responding to requests. Our main office would slow to a standstill if it were not for our admin volunteers who assist us each week. Although their work is not glamorous, their help in sorting out mailings, taking over the phone when the staff are busy and providing an extra pair of hands when needed enables the CA to run smoothly each day.
We cannot forget that it is thanks to the passion and enthusiasm of our volunteers that the Colostomy Association exists in the first place. After Macmillan withdrew financial support for the then British Colostomy Association in 2005, a group of volunteers took it upon themselves to ensure that the service continued: giving up their time and money to set up the Colostomy Association.
This only touches upon how vital volunteers are for the Colostomy Association. We could also write in length about how our volunteers make sure the CA are represented at patient open days, our new JOSH helpliners or our trustees who provide the vision and guidance which drives the Colostomy Association forward.
Volunteers are not just a part of the Colostomy Association, they are the Colostomy Association. They are the voice on the end of phone that helps people through their darkest hours. They are the strangers at an open day that show fellow ostomates that they are not alone with their stoma. They are the passion and compassion that enables the Colostomy Association to reach out to thousands of people whenever we are needed.