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Royal Voluntary Service blog
Find out about the people behind Royal Voluntary Service in our series of guest stories from our volunteers, staff and partners.

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Going for the chop

Phil Marron, Service AssistantCutting off all of your hair is a bold move, especially when your locks are as long as Phil, a Service Assistant at our Middlesbrough service. In the first of a series of blogs about his fundraising journey, he tells us why he has decided to go under the clippers to raise money for Royal Voluntary Service.

“Years ago, I knew an older gentleman who I knew, and still remember as, my grandfather. He was fiercely independent and lived in the same house in which he'd brought his children up. Despite having several children, in his later life he had few visitors. He lived alone and was often victimised by local children. They robbed him, invaded his home and damaged his property on a frequent basis but he was too embarrassed to tell his family.

“He had no one he could relate his worries and concerns to and I can't help but think now that if he'd had a Royal Voluntary Service volunteer, many of the problems he ran in to might have been avoided. All of this happened to a man who had little, but was one of the kindest people I ever knew. Such was his kindness and acceptance of me and my sister, we didn't even realise that he wasn't directly related to us.

“Knowing the difference that the support of one of our volunteers could’ve made to his life, along with the people I am privileged to meet every day through work, motivates me. The only funds that we have are the ones that we raise ourselves and times are hard.

“The idea of shaving my head came up when we were discussing fundraising ideas as a team and it grew from there. I'll be honest, I was a bit reluctant at first. It's been about 15 years since I've had my head completely shaved and I still vividly recall just how cold it was and how biting the wind can be on a freshly shorn head. With the hair being donated and the money we've raised so far taken in to account, any reluctance has gone.”

Donate towards Phil’s head shave on JustGiving to support the Middlesbrough service he is so passionate about.

Posted by Phil Marron at 00:00 Monday, 30 May 2016.

Labels: Fundraising

A day in the life of an archivist

Jennifer HuntMeet Jennifer Hunt, Deputy Archivist, as she goes about her day at the Royal Voluntary Service archives.

I usually start work at 8am and, like many people, my first job is to check my emails, then it’s on with the day. Here at the Archives, no day is ever the same as an archivist is a jack of all trades and master of some.

Let’s take a typical Tuesday. This is usually the day of the week I spend answering enquiries sent by people from inside the organisation as well as from the public. This involves: searching the catalogues and box lists, going into the storerooms, research to (hopefully) find the answers, and replying.

When I am asked what I enjoy the most about being an archivist my answer is always cataloguing. Some may think I am mad but it is true; there is something strangely therapeutic about it. You get to look at a range of different material from: photographs, reports, ephemera, publications and newspaper articles to knitted dolls, tea-towels and spoons so it is a varied job.

Archive material then has to be sorted into a hierarchical structure which informs us where it can be found. We also create a description of the material to help people find the information they need when researching our history and this is where cataloguing comes in.

Catalogue descriptions usually contains key pieces of information including a reference number, dates and a detailed outline of the item/file. This helps to preserve and make accessible an important part of British History and illustrates an important reason for becoming an archivist.

I decided I wanted to be an archivist in my second year of university when I was looking at jobs relating to a history degree. I decided to gain some work experience; my first placement was at the Cheshire and Chester Archives for two weeks and included working in the search room, answering enquiries and conservation. I was hooked and soon on the hunt for more placements.

A placement at Halle Concert Orchestra Archives in Manchester followed and by this time, I was certain that archiving was for me. I completed a qualification in Archive Management began at Royal Voluntary Service. I recently completed the Voices of Volunteering Project and have recently been working on Hidden Histories of A Million Wartime Women Kickstarter project.

To be an archivist I think you have to have a passion, a drive; it is more like a vocation than a job. My top tip for those considering it as a career would be there is no substitute for good work experience. This will give you a real sense if it is for you or not. If you live near Devizes, why not come and volunteer at our archive to give it a go.

Find out more about the Archive & Heritage collection and support the Hidden Histories of A Million Wartime Women by pledging to the Kickstarter project or joining our Thunderclap.

Posted by Jennifer Hunt at 00:00 Wednesday, 25 May 2016.

Labels: Archive

Bingo and tea cakes - my marathon motivation

Jess Chiu runs for Royal Voluntary ServiceMeet Jess Chiu who ran the Brighton Marathon to raise money for Royal Voluntary Service and how bingo and tea cakes gave her motivation to run.

I first heard about the wonderful work of the Royal Voluntary Service through my Mum, who volunteered at a tea bar. During university, I volunteered at a Sunday Lunch Club and saw for myself how older people genuinely looked forward to socialising with others. The dedication of the volunteers was fantastic and it was lovely to see people having such a good time (especially when they won the bingo!).

When I graduated, I started working in a hospital where there was a Royal Voluntary Service café – renown in my department for serving great teacakes and toast. When I decided to do the marathon, I instantly thought of raising money to help Royal Voluntary Service; it would be such a shame to deny older people access to wonderful projects and the hospitals of yummy toasted teacakes!

I have to be honest: I don’t actually like running very much. After a mixed first half marathon experience, I didn’t run more than once a month. Last year, I started running once a fortnight with my friend, which was more fun – it’s great to run with someone else but it still wasn’t my favourite form of exercise, especially past the 10k mark.

The training involved in running a marathon was the hardest part – I’ve never run so much in my life! We followed a 16 week training plan and I joined a running club, which was really motivating. We also signed up for a half marathon as a goal during training for the real thing. It was difficult to persuade myself to go for a run when it was cold or dark, but I’d always feel better after!

I was a bag of nerves at the race start and didn’t realise how many people would be taking part. I ran with my friend for the first six miles until we were split up by crowds but this wasn’t a big problem as I was never really alone. The crowds who came out to spectate were amazing; they really got me through it. I had my name on my running top so the crowd were shouting my name the whole way – it was like being a celebrity! The marathon was much easier and went much quicker than any long training run, the first 17 miles just flew by! It got difficult between 20-22 miles as there were fewer crowds but even that was a lot easier than some of my training runs.

Get involved and run for Royal Voluntary Service to raise vital funds for our services for older people across Great Britain.

Posted by Jess Chiu at 00:00 Monday, 23 May 2016.

Labels: Running, marathons, fundraising

"I've learnt a lot!" - A volunteer's story

Male volunteer works at café tillVolunteering can be a great way to learn new skills and gain experience. During Learning at Work week, meet Alan who volunteers at our café in Royal Bouremouth Hospital.

What made you consider volunteering with Royal Voluntary Service?

I was job hunting. Before I did café work, I worked in an Oxfam warehouse – again on a voluntary basis – sorting books, DVDs and CDs. I joined the café because I wanted to try something new. I’d never worked in a café before, so I thought I’d have a go at it. I enjoy it a lot.

What does your work involve?

I do all sorts of things – for example, arranging stock, helping customers, cleaning tables, packing the dishwasher, collecting mugs…Sometimes I’m on the till, and I’ve used the coffee machine as well. I also sometimes deal with deliveries. I guess I do bit of everything.

I have actually been training others as well; showing them the ropes, where everything is and that kind of stuff. I’d never really done that kind of thing before. It’s a very good skill to have.

What made you decide to keep on volunteering at the café once you’d found a paid job?

What made you decide to keep on volunteering at the café once you’d found a paid job? I really enjoy doing it.

What do you like most about working in the café?

I like seeing my friends there, and all the lovely customers. They are nice to talk to and I really enjoy having conversations with them, which is cool. The manager is always so nice. We’re usually busy. My favourite thing is probably talking to the staff and customers.

What are the most valuable skills you’ve learned?

Customer service and dealing with stock. I’ve learned a lot!

Find out more about volunteering in your area.

Posted by Alan Lodge at 00:00 Friday, 20 May 2016.

Labels: volunteering, learning at work week, café

Five incredible wartime photographs that are still relevant today

Matthew McMurray takes us on a walk through the Royal Voluntary Service archives to see snapshots of history that remain pertinent in current life.

Local services

WVS volunteers in a local office
12/11/1941: Six Womens Voluntary Service (WVS) members staff their posts at a WVS Office, possibly in London.

For much of our history, we have had centres in almost every town across Great Britain, with over 2,000 at our height. Each centre was required to write a regular report, documenting their work. Reports were filed from 1938 until 1992 and vividly illustrate the everyday activities of centres and their volunteers, charting the ups and downs of both the organisation and society for 54 years. Of special importance are the month by month reports through the Second World War. These detail the wide range of essential services which the ordinary members of WVS provided the nation in this pivotal time in British history.

Today, we have thousands of services across Great Britain that continue to serve the public through the tireless work of volunteers. You can make history today by backing our Hidden Histories of A Million Wartime Women project on Kickstarter.

Tea and comfort

Two WVS volunteers serve service men
22/08/1941: Two WVS members serving a welfare services canteen

Service Welfare Canteens serving sandwiches and hot drinks were established during WW2, after the retreat from Dunkirk there were 400 canteens across Britain and a number of local centres were asked to setup clubs. They served both servicemen and women during the war, the aim was to provide an escape from service life in home-like surroundings.

Today, Royal Voluntary Service has 440 cafés, shops and trolley services in hospitals across Great Britain that provide convenient and good value refreshment for visitors, staff and patients as well as a welcoming place to take a break.

Mobile libraries

WVS volunteer provides book to service man
20/11/1941: WVS member and British army serviceman (left) with van filled with books for the services

Women from the WVS provided library services for the armed forces during the Second World War, with a service in Edinburgh sending out 16,000 books on loan in one six month period. Since then, Books on Wheels has developed into Home Library Services that are giving older people the chance to enjoy books in their own homes.

Patient transport

WVS patient transport vehicle
08/09/1941: WRS volunteer waits while two men load an injured man, possibly a seaman, into the rear seats of a WVS wartime ambulance car.

In July 1942, the Ministry for Homeland Security asked WVS to run the Volunteer Car Pool (VCP). By 1944, there were over 570 VCP schemes across Britain, involving transporting people to hospital as well as other duties. This evolved into the various services and now takes the form of Community Transport.

Meals on Wheels

WVS volunteer serves older woman a meal
Circa 1946 – 1949: WVS volunteer in Willesden, London serves a Meals on Wheels dinner while a lady waits in anticipation.

Meals on Wheels were established in 1943 with the number of meals delivered increasing rapidly from the 1950’s. By 1962, WVS had delivered four million meals increasing to fourteen million a year in the 1980s. Royal Voluntary Service still delivers meals today to people who have difficulty with shopping, carrying food home or cooking for themselves.

Support our Hidden Histories of A Million Wartime Women project on Kickstarter and make history from as little as £2.

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00 Wednesday, 18 May 2016.

Labels: WVS, Kickstarter, WW2

A million wartime women - forgotten

WVS narrative reportYesterday, we launched our Hidden Histories of A Million Wartime Women project on Kickstarter with the ambitious aim of raising £25,000 to allow us to capture 28,000 pages of WW2 diaries, spanning 1938 - 1941.

Support the project

During these key years of conflict, one in ten women in Great Britain volunteered with Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS) and bravely fought the war in their own back yards. The jobs that they did were rarely glamorous, but the WVS succeeded by using the skills that women already had; knitting, sewing, cooking and, of course, compassion and diplomacy.

Sadly, the hard work of these women is under threat. The documents that hold their incredible stories are fragile and need to be preserved. We want to ensure their diaries live on and that anyone can access them for many years to come.

These delicate pieces of paper are important for so many reasons; the volunteers’ hand-written diaries allow them to tell us their experiences in their own words, their pioneer gender and social history and showcase the importance of women at a difficult time.

We have only a month to gather support and raise the funds we need to keep the memory of a million women alive. For as little as £2, you can make history. As well as our unreserved thanks, you will receive a range of exclusive gifts to commemorate the event.

Find out more about the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection and support the Kickstarter project.

Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00 Monday, 09 May 2016.

Labels: WVS, Kickstarter, WW2