Helping Hands Cumbrian Volunteering Project

Helping Hands has been an Arts Council England funded county-wide volunteering project across Cumbria led by Cumbria Museums Consortium.  Here Faye Morrissey, Manager & Curator of The Armitt, Ambleside reflects on its impact:

Although I am disappointed to see it come to an end, I am extremely grateful for all the hard work and support put in by the team recruited to make volunteering in the arts and culture sector more accessible. It should also have a very positive legacy in the many people it placed into different venues and organisations around Cumbria, along with the training, development and learning for all those involved.

From the perspective of The Armitt, we have benefitted on many levels from Helping Hands. We have:

  • Recruited six new volunteers during the period of the project, who are involved regularly with research, front of house and digital projects
  • Gained access to and developed relationships with other groups/institutions looking for volunteering opportunities e.g. colleges, right2work schemes
  • Attended training sessions to build staff/volunteer awareness
  •  Promoted our volunteer roles through the Helping Hands website and social media

What we’ll miss from Helping Hands is their capacity to go out into the community and make personal connections with people on behalf of places like The Armitt. For us, as a small organisation, we unfortunately don’t have time or resource to do this, and the Inclusive Volunteering Leads were so crucial in making those contacts and supporting the liaisons between individuals and groups. The training sessions were also a useful resource. In particular, I have taken away the fact that small changes can make big differences. For example, I’m now more communicative and flexible on how and where we complete our inductions. This learning came from the need to to induct a volunteer online due to personal circumstances, and whilst this was entirely new for me and I had to adapt the process I would usually go through, it put the volunteer at ease and the result was that they were prepared for when they did come to the museum in person.

Consequently, I don’t believe it’s always about making great changes to the way we approach volunteering, but rather it is important to be open to listening and adapting. In doing this, we’ll find that we get the best out of our volunteers because they will have been heard and valued. I think this is a key learning point and something which Helping Hands has been especially adept at showcasing.

So, this is my thanks and acknowledgement to a wonderful project. Its legacy will continue through other means, but maybe we’ll see it resurrected again in future… It definitely has my support!

(Photo:  Volunteer Elwyn recruited through Helping Hands, credit Helping Hands/Adrian Naik)