Representing the sector Community Heroes in the Spotlight Volunteers Week 2021 Community Action Network (CAN) is celebrating Volunteers’ Week between 1st and 7th June for its Community Heroes in the Spotlight initiative. Volunteers’ Week is our chance to celebrate BCP volunteers and say thank you for the incredible community response to the pandemic and for the contribution thousands of volunteers made during unprecedented challenges both for people and society. Karen Loftus, Chief Executive of CAN said: ‘We have been blown away by the response of local people to the pandemic here at CAN. Across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, thousands of people have taken on new volunteering roles to help those most in need, and thousands more have adapted their existing volunteering roles to continue providing essential support. Whether delivering food parcels, befriending those who are lonely, supporting people to stay connected online, helping young people with their wellbeing and mental health, or hosting virtual events and activities, local volunteers have quite simply been amazing.’ CAN is very proud to announce that four charities have been chosen for our Community Heroes in the Spotlight initiative this month, to shine a spotlight on their amazing volunteers during Volunteers’ Week 2021. The Samaritans, Bournemouth Caring Canines, STARS and The Wave Project are just a few local charities that recognise that volunteers are the heart of their teams. In normal conditions, Caring Canines would support people of all ages and abilities through their dog-assisted therapy visits. Those were interrupted during the pandemic, but the charity and its volunteers continued to offer support in different ways. Volunteers took calls on the Caring Canines’ telephone contact line up to three times a day for every day of the week. Permanent contact was also maintained through emails, videos, cards, letters, photos, and garden visits when the restrictions were lifted. The Bournemouth Samaritans kept their branch safely open with appropriate measures in place for their volunteers who constantly took calls from people who were struggling emotionally. In 2020, alongside their 60th anniversary, the Samaritans of Bournemouth answered over 13,930 telephone calls, sent over 736 texts, and responded to more than 9055 emails. Sasha, one of the 170+ volunteers said: ‘I am so proud of all our volunteers, both listening and support, who were able to keep going into branch each week throughout the lockdown. Whether it has been the director or our dedicated group of cleaners, it has been incredible. We all volunteer our time and continue to be there for everyone who feels they are struggling emotionally.’ STARS (Sexual Trauma and Recovery Service) and its volunteers have been here to support people who have experienced any form of sexual violence for over 30 years. In 2020, more people were able to access the charity’s listening services as STARS increased their Support Line service and doubled the opening hours supporting over 120 counselling clients. During the pandemic, despite of all challenges, STARS moved into two new centres and continued to recruit and train volunteers, leading them to achieve the Investigating in Volunteers Quality Standard. The Wave Project has also showed incredible commitment and dedication to improve young people’s wellbeing and mental health in a very fun and unique way – through evidenced base surf therapy. Due to coronavirus restrictions and sometimes unfavourable weather conditions, the charity isn’t always able to deliver their usual services. However, The Wave Project together with its volunteers have set up Skate Club sessions and Surf sessions during February and March within government guidelines. These activities are in high demand among young people aged 8-18 and have great benefits for body and mind. Julie, a Wave volunteer said: ‘Wave Project is special to all who volunteer, not just because it’s helping local young people grow in confidence or reduce their anxiety but because of the community the project creates. This community is a big part of why I volunteer. I love seeing young people make new friends during Wave’s sessions. I also love it when they return as peer mentors, they made the decision to give back and help others their age. That’s really powerful.’ You can listen here to our Partnerships Manager, Emma and volunteers from the Samaritans, Poole Covid Community Support, Caring Canines, Together We Can and Stop Covid talking to Blair Crawford on Hope FM about our Community Hero in the Spotlight initiative and the amazing work volunteers are doing for our community.