Barrie’s Volunteering Helps Charity Reach More People in Lockdown

With many people being furloughed from their day jobs, lots of people are looking at volunteering to give them a sense of purpose during lockdown. Many charities heavily rely on their volunteers and all are thanking them this week as it is Volunteer Week.

Barrie Cree from Henley is a fairly new volunteer, he started helping Soundabout, who work with children and young people with complex special needs to make music interactively in January this year.

Using his professional experience of working in digital media over the last 20 years, Barrie is helping Soundabout with their marketing. He is now updating their website, editing videos for YouTube and has helped the charity to improve their way of using their social media channels to reach their audience. This has been particularly helpful since the lockdown in March when all the charity’s activities have had to go virtual.

Barrie had not volunteered since he was 16 when he used go with his Dad, a nurse, to volunteer at Borocourt mental hospital in Wyfold. After tragically losing his young grandson suddenly last August, he sought bereavement counselling through the local Cruse office in Oxford. Barrie said, “After receiving wonderful support from a Cruse counsellor who are all volunteers, I thought how good they were to help me through difficult times, and this gave me the spur to try and do something to help others too.”

In December Barrie Google searched ‘a charity that works with disabled children and young adults, looking for marketing or web assistance and in the local area’. The big draw to Soundabout for Barrie was the music element as he is a keen musician and plays bass in a band. Barrie commented, “I wanted to find something that might be able to make use of my professional background and up popped the Soundabout marketing role which seemed the perfect match. I think the relationship is working so well as they thought they might just get help with marketing but because of my digital skills I can update the website, edit and produce films for social media and, because I’m a musician, I understand how they communicate with their participants too. I think I’ve plugged about 4/5 ‘’holes’ for them in one person.”

Thinking of volunteering? Barrie’s advice would be “Yes do it. The rewards are huge, in my case they are massive compared to the time and effort I put in. For example, to see the videos that parents have recorded of their children joining the live virtual music sessions and seeing their reaction is brilliant. The look on their faces, squealing with excitement, singing, banging instruments and making music is fantastic. These interactive sessions are all saved and I edit these and load them up on to the website so that can be watched again (and again!). Many parents have said that these have become part of their daily routine during lockdown. It’s brilliant to see the tangible, and huge difference we’re making to people’s lives. There’s also a great camaraderie between the volunteers where we share stories and I’ve already formed some good friendships. ”

Clare Cook, Chief Executive Officer at Soundabout said, “Barrie has been an absolute life saver and he’s extraordinary. We’re a small charity and didn’t have his type of expertise in house. Little did we know that this was going to be an essential part of our delivery at the start of the year. He has helped with moving our community face to face sessions onto Facebook Live and helped with technical support to our music practitioners for them to be able to deliver these from home. He has helped promote them, to look at the statistics to see who is watching, how long for etc. This is great information that we can use to highlight the reach and impact of our sessions to funders. Barrie has also created a website page with the all virtual recordings so that people can access it easily and watch it whenever they like. He’s been incredible.”

The virtual community choir sessions have been featured on BBC news in May. Clare explains, “We invited BBC’s Fergal Keane to read a poem at a carol service for our supporters and he was so blown away and moved by the choir who were a central part of the service. He was hoping to do something about the choir families before lockdown.”

Soundabout only has nine volunteers who are mainly music practitioners. Clare said, “We’re always looking for more music people particularly who have makaton signing skills but we’re also looking for someone to do some data inputing (ideally with Salesforce experience) as we have such a lot of new important data which is vital for us. Our focus is on giving a voice to people who have severe or profound learning disabilities.”

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way many charities are working and some will continue to do things differently, Clare added, “We’ll definitely be continuing with Zoom and Facebook Live going forward as we’re reaching so many more people than we were before.”

So if you’ve been thinking about volunteering, jump in with two feet and look to find a volunteering role that suits you and enjoy the wonderful rewards it brings.