A great day volunteering (with a beaver!)

As it’s National Volunteers Week (1-7 June), we thought we’d take the opportunity to highlight the hard work of our volunteers. Tracie Kinnear runs Witness Service Kilmarnock and recently hosted a stall at a local event to promote the service and how it can help people who are coming to court to give evidence. She was assisted by some fantastic volunteers, as she describes below.

8 June, 2018

On Saturday 2nd of June, the Witness Service Kilmarnock hosted a table at the ‘Volunteering in the Park’ event in the community garden at Eglinton Park in Kilwinning. The event was organised by The Ayrshire Community Trust as part of Volunteer Week, as a way to raise awareness of the wonderful work that the volunteers of North Ayrshire do across the community.

The stall was manned by Anita, Brenda and Elizabeth who enjoyed meeting people at our stall and giving them a first-hand account of both the joys and the hard work involved in volunteering for VSS. My niece Fearne and Anita’s granddaughter Mollie were on pony duty. Nicki not only provided the miniature Shetland ponies (they also visit elderly people in nursing homes and terminally ill children at home) but spent the afternoon applying glitter to children and adults alike and Peter manfully donned the beaver outfit and a VSS t-shirt to run around the field. His wife Claire was in charge of feeding the troops, popping back and forward to the refreshment table that had been set up to feed the stallholders, to pick up cold drinks, sandwiches and cake. They all really went above and beyond the call of duty on what turned out to be a very warm and busy afternoon.

All of the volunteers did an amazing job, not only promoting the service to those who had no idea what VSS does, but catching up with previous service users and chatting to a few people who may require the services of VSS in the coming weeks and months. A variety of subjects were discussed but the big issues we kept hearing about from people centred around anti-social behaviour, hate crime and concerns about online safety. Several people also expressed an interest in volunteering with the services and information packs were handed out, along with contact details for all the local services.

Having seen Fearne and Mollie out walking with the ponies at the beginning of the afternoon, families were initially drawn in by the lure of petting Albert and Arrow but stayed at the stall to have glittery tattoos applied by Nicki and to chat to the volunteers about the work they do. Unfortunately we didn’t have an official VSS glitter tattoo stencil (something to think about for the future 😉 ), but that didn’t stop people queuing to have fairies, unicorns, superheroes and all manner of glittery images painted on to their arms and faces. Donations were also popped into a tin in return for the free service.

Peter showed incredible acting skills as a VSS beaver, entertaining people young and old with his dancing talents. He was famous for the day, with many people joining him for a beaver selfie, which helped to get our helpline number out on social media. We are always looking to promote the number in case someone in need hasn’t heard of our services, so this was a fun way to reach new audiences. At one point he was like the beaver equivalent of the pied piper with a line of children dancing along behind him. He even took part in the tug of war – allowing the Irvine team to claim victory over the Kilwinning team – much to the amusement of the crowd. No mean feat given the temperature on the day. He also found time to stop by the stall and say hi to the other volunteers during a quieter moment.

Elizabeth said, “These events are not only beneficial to members of the public who have the opportunity to find out that these services exist but also gives volunteers the chance to speak to people in a relaxed atmosphere, allowing us to promote the hard work that we do within the services. It gives us a place to receive feedback from previous service users and to offer help to potential new service users.”

The volunteers enjoyed the relaxed, social aspect of the day and felt that it gave them the opportunity to develop their presentation and networking skills through speaking to people about the services we provide. However, Peter did end up having a bit of a love/hate relationship with the beaver outfit by the end of the afternoon and may have finished the day weighing a little lighter than he started! Despite this, he and many of the other volunteers, have asked to volunteer at other events over the summer – hope we see you there!