Study by national disabled people’s charity reveals volunteering combats intolerance and encourages diversity
The Home Office has found that hate crimes – including those against disabled people – rose by 19% from 2014-15 to 2015-16. 62,518 hate crimes were recorded by the police in 2015-16. As intolerance and hate crime rise, a new study by national disability charity Revitalise has discovered that student volunteers are leading the way when it comes to making society a more tolerant place.
With issues around intolerance and hostility towards diversity seemingly never far from the news agenda, particularly in more recent times, the personal and social benefits of volunteering were clear, found the charity. 95% of the student respondents said that volunteering for Revitalise had made them more tolerant towards others and 96% said it had made them more aware of diversity issues.
While self-interest may have been the primary motive for students to volunteer in the first place – 7 out of 10 respondents said they had volunteered to gain extra skills and enhance their CVs – the potential benefits to society were irrefutable. 8 out of 10 said that volunteering had inspired them to play a more active role in their home communities.
83% of the volunteers who provided feedback were full-time students and these formed the focus of the charity’s study. Each year the charity’s army of volunteers give a total of over 3,000 weeks of their time in order to live and work at the charity’s three UK respite holiday centres for disabled people and carers.
Revitalise runs the largest residential volunteer programme of any UK charity. Volunteers are integral to Revitalise’s mission to enhance the lives of disabled people and carers by providing vital opportunities for social interaction. The volunteers – 85% of whom are between the ages of 16 and 25 – enable the centres’ guests to take full advantage of the inclusive social activities and excursions provided by Revitalise.
One family Revitalise have helped are Graham, Lesley and Oliver. The couple had just restarted a relationship when Graham had a stroke, which had a huge impact on Graham, Lesley and her 15 year old son, Oliver. Lesley now provides round the clock care for Graham every day. Graham recently had a break with Revitalise. Lesley said,
“It was Graham’s first time there and a big step for him, but I felt it was important for his independence. For four years, I have always looked after him. It is difficult for both of us, as I also have my son to care for and want to put him first. I thought not only would a break do Graham and myself the world of good, but be important for Oliver too.
“It was a very relaxing week and to be honest, I felt I needed the break just as much as Graham. Things get on top of me and I feel isolated. I got up when I wanted and had time to myself for the first time in a long time. In the past, when Graham has been away from me, he has called me non-stop as he’s been worried, which makes me worry, but I hardly heard from him at all. No phone calls means he’s happy!
“He got spoilt rotten! He really enjoyed choosing where he wanted to go, what activities to do and all the socialising. He has made friends and loved the carers and volunteers who looked after him and got to know them really well. I asked him if he missed me and he told me he’d missed my nagging – I knew then he was back to his old, cheeky self!
“I don’t know what we would have done for a break if Revitalise didn’t exist. It was the only place I could find. It was a well needed break for myself and a great, positive experience for Graham.”
Revitalise is a national charity providing respite holidays for disabled people and carers at three accessible centres in Chigwell in Essex, Southampton and Southport, with 24-hour nurse-led care on-call, personal support and a range of accessible excursions, activities and entertainment.
Commenting on the importance of their volunteers and the results of the study, Revitalise Chief Executive Chris Simmonds said,
“We live in challenging times. Society is becoming increasingly polarised, so we were very heartened to discover that our young volunteers are really flying the flag for tolerance and diversity.
“It is also very encouraging to find that not only do our student volunteers become more optimistic about their own futures, they are also inspired to play a role in improving society too.
“This proves that, whatever one’s motives for volunteering in the first place, the experience leads to more confident, engaged and tolerant individuals – and this in turn makes society a better place.
“I hope this study will inspire many more young people to try their hand at volunteering for Revitalise and experience for themselves the many life-enhancing benefits it provides.”
For more information about volunteering for Revitalise please call 0303 303 0145, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.revitalise.org.uk.