Volunteering in the South Lakes – The Lighthouse Needs You!
It’s well worth repeating because it’s true – ‘Volunteering in the South Lakes – The Lighthouse NEEDS you!’
Like so many other charities in the UK and elsewhere, we need volunteers because, without them, services would stop.
Volunteer recruitment is getting more complex. Gone are the days when more people sought to give time to good causes. People now have less free time and are hesitant to share what time they have away for free. Moreover, the pandemic saw the number of people volunteering drop. During 2020/21, the number of people formally volunteering at least once a month fell from 23% to 17%. In addition, the cost of living crisis has made the situation worse.
The cost of living crisis has put additional pressure on individuals’ capacity to volunteer in various ways. Paid work is a barrier to volunteering. When people take on longer hours or additional jobs to pay their bills, they have less free time to volunteer.
It’s a challenging situation and one which the Lighthouse views with concern. We recognise people volunteering in the South Lakes as our ‘lifeblood’. Moreover, we treasure their contribution to our work and the benefit they provide our users. From serving as trustees to delivering face-to-face services and activities, all of our volunteers are amazing!
‘Peer Support’ – What Is It?
Peer Support has been integral to the Lighthouse since its foundation in 2019. Over the years, we have consistently worked alongside people with lived experience of mental distress to shape the Lighthouse Peer Support Model. This ensures that what we deliver reflects the needs of people experiencing mental pain and those using our services.
At the Lighthouse, peer support means that people with experience of mental distress support each other towards better well-being as people of equal value and on a reciprocal basis, using their own lived experience as a tool for support.
Peer support occurs when people provide knowledge, experience, emotional, social or practical help to each other. It commonly refers to an initiative of trained supporters and can take several forms, such as peer mentoring, listening, or counselling. Peer support is also used to refer to initiatives where colleagues, members of self-help organisations and others meet as equals to give each other support on a reciprocal basis. Peer, in this case, is taken to imply that each person has no more expertise as a supporter than the other, and the relationship is one of equality.
The effectiveness of peer support is believed to derive from various psychosocial processes described best by Mark Salzer in 2002: social support, experiential knowledge, social learning theory, social comparison theory and the helper therapy principle.
Social support is the existence of positive psychosocial interactions with others with whom there is mutual trust and concern. Positive relationships contribute to positive adjustment and buffer against stressors and adversities by offering emotional support (esteem, attachment, and reassurance), instrumental support (material goods and services), and information support (advice, guidance, and feedback).
Experiential knowledge is specialised information and perspectives that people obtain from living through a particular experience such as substance abuse, a physical disability, chronic physical or mental illness, or a traumatic event such as combat, a natural disaster, domestic violence or a violent crime, sexual abuse, or imprisonment. It tends to be unique and pragmatic and, when shared, contributes to solving problems and improving quality of life.
Social learning theory postulates that peers, because they have undergone and survived relevant experiences, are more credible role models for others. Interactions with peers successfully coping with their experiences or illness are more likely to result in positive behaviour change.
Social comparison theory means individuals are more comfortable interacting with others with common characteristics, such as a psychiatric illness, to establish a sense of normalcy. By interacting with others who are perceived to be better than them, peers are given a sense of optimism and something to strive toward.
The helper-therapy principle proposes that there are four significant benefits to those who provide peer support:
(a) increased sense of interpersonal competence as a result of making an impact on another person’s life;
(b) development of a sense of equality in giving and taking between themself and others;
(c) helper gains new personally relevant knowledge while helping and
(d) the helper receives social approval from the person they support and others.
Wow, That’s A Lot Of Theory – But What Does A Peer Volunteer Do For The Lighthouse?
The main aim of our volunteers is to help our users feel more confident and less socially isolated. This helps improve mental health and emotional well-being.
Lighthouse volunteers achieve this by supporting users in its peer support groups and at the other activities it organises.
Support involves listening with empathy, understanding and non-judgementally. It’s about encouraging open dialogue and directing people to other organisations if we cannot help with a specific issue. These might include housing matters, financial concerns or benefit disputes.
Formal qualifications are not required. However, we would like you to demonstrate that you have the following qualities:
- A genuine desire to support people who experience emotional and mental distress.
- Warmth, understanding, sensitivity and a willingness to listen.
- Good communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal.
- A supportive and non-judgemental nature regardless of gender (including gender identity), age, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability or medical diagnosis.
- A commitment to empowering and enabling others.
- The ability to develop and maintain appropriate boundaries and respect confidentiality towards clients and other volunteers.
- Finally, the ability not to bring any of your own issues into the Lighthouse safe spaces.
For more information, details of our guidelines on maintaining boundaries, and to arrange an informal discussion, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What about Other Volunteering In The South Lakes Roles?
We recognise that face-to-face peer support volunteering isn’t for everyone. Don’t worry; we have you covered! the Lighthouse also needs people with experience in charity strategy and development, business planning and finance to join our Board of Trustees or assist with office tasks such as grant applications and organising fundraising events. Again, for more information and to arrange an informal discussion, please contact us at email@example.com.