Volunteers Week 2021

Helen Oparinde, Development Officer in VAL’s Voluntary Sector Support team, celebrates Volunteers Week by talking about how she volunteers, giving back to her local community.

Volunteers Week takes place 1-7 June every year. It’s a chance to recognise the fantastic contribution volunteers make to our communities and say thank you.

As a development officer in VAL’s Voluntary Sector Support team, working daily to assist local VCSE organisations in Leicester city and Leicestershire with their requests for support, it is great to be able to utilise the skills and knowledge learnt in that paid role to help the community where I live in Derby.

My volunteering roles

In 2018/19 I helped Derby Athletic Club to access some Games Changer funding from England Athletics (EA). Whilst the funding amount was very small, it provided the catalyst to review the recruitment and retention of volunteers within the volunteer involving organisation.

As a community amateur sports club (CASC) that relies solely on volunteers to provide the function of coaching and competitions for both track and field, road relay, and cross country athletes, it is so important to recognise the work that those operational volunteers do week in and week out.

I worked alongside the EA‘s Club Support Manager to review how the Games Changer project could be delivered most effectively. Using my knowledge of project management, we devised a survey to ask all athletes, young and old, coaches, officials and parents their perception of the club in its present form. The research highlighted that whilst coaches were committed to their role, they felt a bit undervalued because at that stage they were expected to contribute to the costs of coaching courses. Sometimes this meant they didn’t book courses because it was too expensive.

Using this research, we were able to negotiate with the funder to realign the budget so that existing volunteers as well as new recruits could attend an EA designated course for free. This included longstanding coaches completing an athletics coach qualification and younger coaches starting on their coaching journey by attending an assistant coaching course.

The future

With the impact of the pandemic some coaches have left their role, so I am now working with the club and EA to redistribute any remaining unused coaching vouchers to help strength the depth and quality of the coaching provision at the club.

Feedback from the coaches who received this opportunity included:

Thank you so much for your continued support. It’s refreshing to know that after 5+ years in coaching that I finally got the support to develop my athletes to their full potential.

And with hugs being back in fashion, this feedback was very heartening that my volunteering had made such a difference to people who have helped my daughter to be a club, school, and county track athlete:

I had given up with UKA a long time ago, even given up on some of our senior members, and then you come along, you do realise this puts you in line for a big hug. Thank you once again for your efforts. Brace yourself for the hug.

If you would like to know more about Derby Athletic Club, take a look at their volunteering video.

Get into volunteering

If you are interested in volunteering yourself why not sign up and search for opportunities in Leicester and Leicestershire. Or if you are a local volunteering involving organisation and want help with your recruitment and retention procedures, why not contact VAL to request some support.

Helen Oparinde

Helen Oparinde is a Development Officer for VAL as part of the Voluntary Sector Support team. Helen is an expert in charity governance and provides face-to-face and telephone advice to local charities and community groups. You can contact Helen at helen.o@valonline.org.uk.