Marta Rocco, Volunteer Centre Sutton's Volunteer Delivery and Development Manager, recently contributed the following article to Our Impact, a brand new online magazine which provides in-depth articles, case studies, interviews, facts and figures, personal stories from a pool of multi-disciplinary writers. 

The London Borough of Sutton has long been recognised as a borough with a strong sense of community spirit and rich history of volunteering. As a small charity, the Volunteer Centre Sutton is proud to be part of such history. We have been helping local people to find positive volunteering opportunities and supporting local non-for-profit groups with all aspects of working with volunteers, for over fifty years.

My job as a Community Engagement Coordinator for our in-house project, ‘Open Doors’, is to support Sutton’s community and organisations to develop and deliver volunteering for hard-to-reach people and people with additional needs. I also coordinate the Young Commissioners, a group of local young people who help shape public services in priority areas concerning the community.

When Covid-19 reached the UK, the needs of our local community changed, as did our services. When the UK government imposed the stay-at-home order, access to food became difficult, many people found themselves isolated, and people could not leave the house to pick up their medication or grocery shopping. It became the Volunteer Centre’s priority to respond to these needs and ensure that the community was not left suffering. We advertised for volunteers and the response was overwhelming. In just two days, we had more than 200 people expressing their interest in volunteering to help with our COVID-19 emergency response. The numbers grew each day. In the past five months, we have received more than 1800 people registering an interest to become a volunteer. This is almost four times higher than our usual annual intake!

We suddenly found ourselves having to meet a significantly higher demand in a short period of time. We have never been so busy. We became the first point of call for many of our local residents.

Volunteers from Volunteer Centre Sutton packing food boxesIn the past 5 months, over 300 of our local volunteers have delivered food boxes to homes of vulnerable residents on a weekly basis, as well as more than 450 prescribed medications to shielding or self-isolating residents in Sutton, and delivered PPE equipment to local GP practices. Our volunteers have packed and delivered 623 emergency food boxes to people in urgent need.

The Volunteer Centre has matched 165 new befrienders in order to tackle and reduce isolation in our community. We have also matched 160 mentors and advocates with children and young people across the borough. The bespoke 1:1 support provided by our volunteers constitutes thousands of volunteering hours. We also run a Personal Shopper service and have 80 volunteer shoppers who undertake vulnerable residents’ weekly shopping. A local restaurant even kindly donated 240 Fish & Chips meals which our volunteers managed to deliver to older and shielding people in Sutton. The response has been incredible. People offered to do anything, to help anyone, at any time of the day. I am proud to be a part of this community.

As a volunteer coordinator, it is a joy to work with so many motivated people who are doing something good and essential for our community. I would like to thank all our volunteers for the hours of selfless work and support they have provided over the past few months. They are the reason that our community will be able to get through this awful period and eventually thrive.

Marta R Rocco is an International Lawyer and Community Organiser, passionate about community empowerment and Refugee International Law.

Volunteer Centre Sutton is the operational name of Sutton Borough Volunteer Bureau | Company type: Charitable incorporated organisation | Company number: CEO19319 | Charity number: 1048978 |