As part of Volunteers’ Week across the UK (1-7 June), we look at the way Discovery continues to help change lives in South Wales and across the globe.
Discovery is a registered charity that has been established since 1966 and based at Swansea University.
It was initially formed by a group of students with the charity now boasting over 600 volunteers in 30 projects across Swansea.
Discovery runs a range of projects including working with refugee and asylum seekers, older adults, adults with additional needs as well as young people. There are also ways for volunteers to help reduce loneliness and isolation amongst the student community through its Wellbeing Champions and CONNECT initiatives, as well as forming ‘Orientation Buddies’ to support new autistic students as they arrive to study at Swansea University.
The charity also has a range of practical opportunities including beach cleans and an international project based in Siavonga in southern Zambia.
“I love volunteering with Discovery because no two days are the same,” said Emily Galloghly, a Clinical Psychology MSc student.
“I have met so many people from all walks of life during my time volunteering. They are such a diverse and inclusive charity and offer a safe space for anyone who wants to try out some volunteering.
“Discovery have provided me with invaluable opportunities to work towards my goal of becoming a clinical psychologist. I’ve been privileged to volunteer with elderly people in the mid to late stages of dementia as well as volunteering on the supported volunteering scheme. As a project coordinator, I’ve really developed my leadership and communication skills, which are crucial for enhancing my employability.”
Now more than ever, our local community needs the support of volunteers as we all endure what are unprecedented times in our modern history.
And volunteers with Discovery have been playing their part during the coronavirus pandemic, with virtual volunteering becoming the norm amidst lockdown and social distancing measures.
Some have been helping blind and visually impaired people via Be My Eyes, a free app that connects volunteers to those in need for visual assistance through a live video call.
The charity has also been supporting students and staff to volunteer for the ‘For The Love of Scrubs’ project where volunteers make essential items for healthcare staff in local hospitals around Swansea, including scrubs, face masks, wash bags and hair bands.
As well as this, there is the supported volunteering project that provides weekly distance support to adults with additional needs through phone calls and digital technology.
Carys Jones, a criminology student, said: “Volunteering with Discovery through this very uncertain and difficult time has left my mental health in a positive way. Without realising, calling supported volunteers has become the highlight of my week and it’s something I actively look forward too.
“The calls bring so much joy to my day, hearing stories and sharing memories is something I value very much. Being able to make someone else smile, and laugh, and them returning the favour has helped me get through the toughest challenges these last few months.
“Volunteering for Discovery has strengthened my mental health throughout the year, but even more so through these trying times. They help remind me every day that being kind is a very easy thing to do.”
Discovery is also celebrating after once against being awarded Investors in Volunteers (IiV) status for a fourth time last month.
This is a UK-wide quality standard for organisations involving volunteers and aims to improve the quality of volunteering experience for volunteers and to encourage organisations to better recognise the enormous contribution made by them.
“I am absolutely delighted that Discovery has again received the Investors in Volunteers award,” said managing director Eleanor Norton.
“We are volunteer led and most of those volunteers are students who take on leadership roles including becoming trustees and project Co-ordinators. This award is a testament to their hard work and commitment as well as that of our amazing staff team who support them.”
Sian Rabi-Laleh, Discovery’s Volunteer Recruitment Officer, added: “For over half a century, Discovery has had a huge impact on both students and Swansea as a city. It enables students to improve their CV, learn new skills, make new friends, meet a diverse range of people from across the community and, above all, make a difference to people’s lives.”