Want to help people, either in your local area or further afield, but don’t know how to volunteer remotely during lockdown? We’ve shared our tips on how to get started below.
First, here are 5 remote volunteering stories that will show you just how much can be achieved from home, and will leave you itching to get started!
1. Using Professional Skills When Unable to Work
Vicky Kyme discovered a community of kind, selfless, and considerate people when she volunteered for Muscular Dystrophy UK (MDUK) during lockdown.
In March 2020, Vicky was poised to join one of London’s most loved and well-known performing arts centres as Head of Communications, a job she describes as her ‘dream job’ as it combines charity (in support of disadvantaged young people) and the arts. Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened.
“The timing couldn’t have been worse as [with lockdown]the organisation had to close, along with many other performing arts venues in the country,” she said. “None of us saw this coming”.
When her recruitment company got in touch looking for volunteers to help MDUK, Vicky responded immediately with a sincere ‘yes’! As someone who could ‘hit the ground running’, Vicky helped the charity by interviewing and writing up the stories of several of the charity’s supporters.
She has been amazed by the strength and achievements she has heard first-hand from people living with muscle-wasting conditions.
“What really stands out for me is the way people have faced up to adversity; whether parents coming to terms with heart-breaking news about their child’s condition or high achievers whose diagnosis has changed their life completely,” Vicky said. “I have interviewed people who somehow haven’t lost their extremely dry sense of humour.”
“Since I started volunteering for MDUK, I know that whatever I do next, I want to work alongside the sort of people I have been with for the last five months. I have discovered a community of kind, selfless and considerate people who are brilliant at what they do and are working so hard to support people in a very professional way. The people I have met and interviewed embody the kindness, resourcefulness and positivity I think we all need right now”.
2. Supporting Girls’ Education in Nepal
James Russell, 35, and Nicola Whybrow, 38, both volunteer for VSO supporting vulnerable girls to succeed in school through the Sisters for Sisters’ Education project in Surkhet, Nepal. “While we were on placement, James and I were watching what was happening in the UK. We saw the school closures, and then the Nepali government called for a lockdown,” says Nicola. This left more than six million children out of school in Nepal.
Only 24% of households have daily access to the internet, making learning from home a massive challenge. “I am grateful to be busy; it feels like we are working on response plans and documents that will have an impact.”
James and Nicola have been busy developing a contingency strategy and seeing what distance learning options are available in the Nepali context. They are hopeful that the lockdown will result in some positive longterm changes.“I can see a huge opportunity out of this disaster,” says James. “Most Nepali classrooms are set up so that teachers talk at children. There’s an opportunity to use built-in infrastructure of TV and radio in the future to run distance learning sessions, with more engaging task-based activities. Since the crisis, there’s been pressure from the Nepali government for telecoms companies to provide cheap Internet access.”
3. Keeping Communities Connected Through Their Faith
“In many ways, I have felt very powerless, it seems like such a huge insurmountable problem, but I feel good that I can give something back to the community and keep children and families connected to each other through their faith.” – Eileen
When churches – along with the rest of the nation – went into coronavirus lockdown just a few weeks before Easter last year, mother-of-two Eileen Hayes was determined that her son and daughter shouldn’t miss out on celebrating this important Christian festival. So the 37-year-old from south London decided to set up a weekly prayer and praise session from her children’s bedroom and extended the invitation to other children to join her online with the help of UK Catholic charity CAFOD.
Fast-forward to 2021 and more than 1,000 families from as far afield as Australia and South Africa now log on every Sunday to join Eileen and her team of volunteers for forty minutes of live hymn-singing and scripture. Eileen even prepared a pre-recorded session for Christmas Day.
“The response has been overwhelming,” says Eileen. “We know children have been amongst the hardest-hit during the coronavirus outbreak. Cut-off from their friends and unable to go to school at times, many of them have felt isolated and alone.
“The first Sunday was really exciting but also quite nerve-wracking. I wondered if anyone would turn up! When I logged on, I was amazed that 500 families had registered.
“The Sunday sessions give them a chance to connect with youngsters up and down the country and beyond – to pray together about what they are worried about and give thanks and count their blessings.
“Hopefully it gives them something to look forward to each week and, in some small way, helps them get through these really tough times until they can go back to church and school again.”
4. Zoom sessions of interview support and friendship
Maria, 24, is a Civil Servant who has been volunteering for over a year and a half for the disability charity Sense. She gives her time every week to be a buddy for sixteen-year-old Saihan who has learning disabilities.
Over time, they have built up a strong friendship through a range of shared interests and activities. Saihan is an outgoing young man who is particularly passionate about politics and disability rights. Saihan and Maria clicked over these shared interests leading them to form a great friendship.
Maria has helped Saihan build his confidence, social skills and independent decision-making. Before the pandemic Maria and Siahan did weekly activities, such as watching movies together, going to museums and attending debates. They even attended history lectures about WW2, visited the British Museum and the Houses of Parliament.
During lockdown, Maria continued her weekly support and met with Saihan over Zoom. They spend this time helping Saihan prepare for a job interview, learning how to use Microsoft Office and watching documentaries.
“Volunteering teaches you the value of small steps, of small gestures, and how much of a difference these can make in someone’s life,” said Maria. “For that reason alone, I would encourage everyone to consider volunteering for whatever cause it is that they might be passionate about.”
5. Telephone Support for Carers
Dee has been a volunteer for a number of years, and the lockdown hasn’t stopped her. Since the summer of 2020, she has been a Telephone Ambassador for Action for Pulmonary Fibrosis, making calls to patients and Carers.
“This has been a rewarding experience for them as well as me, knowing I have been able to support them particularly during these challenging and worrying times,” said Dee. “The feedback I have received has been really positive.”
Dee and Roger Bryan set up the West Kent Pulmonary Fibrosis Support Group in 2018, following Roger’s diagnosis with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) two years earlier. Dee soon realised that carers needed a separate forum where they could express themselves freely.
“With my background in Cancer & Palliative Care, supporting patients and carers for over 20 years and my need as a carer myself, I felt it was a natural progression to start a carer’s group in March 2019,” Dee explained. “I started the West Kent Support Group, which has provided support and information to patients and their carers.
“The Carer’s Group provides an open, confidential, safe space for carers to express their worries, concerns and fears along with being able to laugh and cry without upsetting our loved ones.“
How to volunteer remotely
Feeling even more motivated to start volunteering remotely? Here are our top tips on how to get started:
- Think about the cause you’d like to support.
- Think about your skills, what you are able to do to help and the amount of time you have available to volunteer.
- If you have a specific organisation in mind, get in touch with them to see if they are looking for support at the moment.
- Don’t have a specific organisation in mind? Search for volunteering positions (see below).
Where to look for remote volunteering opportunities
- Look at opportunities on Do-it.org. Every 45 seconds someone in the UK finds a volunteering opportunity thanks to Do-it.org. It is the national database of volunteering opportunities. You can search for volunteering opportunities by interest, activity or location and apply online.
- Join and search local Facebook groups, like mutual aid groups.
- Look at volunteering vacancies posted by local volunteering centres. For example, if you live in Sheffield, Voluntary Action Sheffield will be the local organisation advertising opportunities. Find your local volunteering centre here.
- Have a specific cause in mind? Look on their website / social media accounts to see if they’re currently recruiting volunteers.