12 Jul 2017

No one should be excluded from taking part in fulfilling volunteering opportunities because of their past history, according to the project manager of community recovery group Jigsaw.

Jigsaw 1Members of the group have benefitted from a host of volunteering opportunities over the last three years - both individually and as a team - following referrals from the local volunteer centre.

Jigsaw recognises that  it can be hard for service users to break free from the stigmatisation of substance misuse, mental health concerns or a criminal record, and asserts that everyone deserves a second chance. It was created to bring service users together and to help people to move on with their lives by providing opportunities for them to engage in positive activities.

Members have recently enjoyed volunteering at events such as the Colwyn Bay St David's Day Parade and Forties Festival, Llandudno's Victorian Extravaganza, Prom Extra, and events at Eirias Park.   They have also given their time for their community at St Paul's Church Gardens and to fundraise alongside Marie Curie.

Brian Lewis, Project Manager, describes how group members are keen to break down barriers to their reintegration into the community. 

'Many barriers are self-imposed, and include isolation, loneliness, and boredom. Our members are also likely to be unemployed or have housing issues. But volunteering can readily overcome most of these obstacles'.

'Volunteering in the community contributes to the wellbeing of Jigsaw members, helping them to overcome their isolation and to increase self-esteem, make new contacts and friends and develop their lives in a positive manner'.

'Jigsaw volunteers do not feel judged in any way. They have felt supported whilst volunteering, and are proud that they have made a real contribution to the community'.

'Jigsaw's aim is to focus on the future rather than the past, and to move away from criminality and addiction.  Volunteering is a powerful means to achieve this.'

Jigsaw 2
The group is enthusiastic and keen to help the community, especially at weekends.  During the week, members are occupied in following a mutually-supportive, structured intervention programme (although this can include volunteering activities, with sufficient notice). 

Does your organisation involve volunteers?  Have you considered accommodating a group of volunteers like the members of Jigsaw?  Does your volunteering policy properly reflect equality and diversity? If not, then please reconsider - as you and your organisation will be missing out on a large number of potential volunteers.

Jigsaw 3'Life issues should never be a barrier to accessing a volunteering opportunity and the chance to play a full part in our local communities,'
CVSC volunteering manager Ceri Jones said. 'Your volunteer centre can help you to ensure that appropriate risk assessment, recruitment and support systems are in place, so that everyone gets the best out of the volunteering placement. Information and advice is only a phonecall away'.