It’s hard to imagine it’s been nearly three months since it feels like everything changed.
Apart from the essential exemptions, most of us have been doing our bit to help with the COVID-19 response by staying at home for the last couple of months. And although some of the restrictions are beginning to ease slightly since Friday, that’s still mostly the case now.
But there’s been a big group of people who’ve been helping keep us all going over the last few weeks, even while we’ve been in lockdown – Scotland’s volunteers.
Some have been getting the messages for their neighbours, making sure people get the food and prescriptions and other essentials they need – and providing isolated or lonely people a lifeline with befriending calls and other emotional support. Some are directly helping with the response to COVID-19 and others are volunteering in life-changing work that’s quite different from that. Some are new to volunteering and others have been helping their communities for years.
In fact, there are thousands of people in Scotland who’ve been volunteering for decades – whole lifetimes. Like Scotland’s dedicated emergency responders, they too make the difference day in, day out, in our village halls, on our mountains, with our children and young people and hundreds of other places as well.
So as we start Volunteers’ Week it’s more important now than ever that we celebrate them and thank every single one of them.
This year the theme for the annual event is “get creative”. We’re all being asked to find new ways to show those people who give of their time and skill that we’re grateful, and I was asked by Volunteer Scotland if I’d write a poem to recognise and thank the role volunteers play in society.
I have to be frank and say writing poetry isn’t something I often do! However as I started to think about it, I realised I could tell the story of my mum and dad. All my life they’ve been involved in helping out with something or other – and my mum in particular, as I say in the poem, was aye up to something.
She helped with village galas, the school PTA, the local youth club – befriending, fundraising, cooking and having fun. My dad did his bit too: he was active in amateur football where we lived in Perthshire – the mighty Kinrossie AFC! – and helped with everything from running the hall to coaching the primary school football team.
I know how many people’s lives my mum has helped make better – and is still helping – not just because I was there but because over the years, people still talk to me about the difference she made to them.
That’s the impact volunteering can make. It can stick with the folk you help for the rest of their lives.
My pride in my parents makes me want to tell the world about them and the good they’ve done, but I know there are thousands of other people all across Scotland volunteering just like they did and my mum continues to.
And right now I also know there are lots of people who wish they could be volunteering but can’t because of the need to stay at home, or because of caring responsibilities, or because they are shielding. As the restrictions begin to ease I know that in the weeks and months to come, you’ll be stepping up again and helping build our communities back up again.
Now more than ever we need our volunteers and this week gives us a chance to say a massive thank you for everything you do to make our communities and our country even better.
Poem by Aileen Campbell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government
My mum’s a volunteer
It feels like a confession
But growing up she was aye up to something
Galas and the Guild
Pantos and the PTA
Hoolies in the hall
My mum was there
Booker cash and carry trips
My mum was the expert
She had ‘proper jobs’ by day
Cleaner, cook and shop assistant
But by night she was youth worker, performer
Social worker, referee
A life enhanced by volunteering
Lives made better by my mum
It didn’t end there
She volunteered us too
Raffle tickets to sell? I’ll get the girls to help.
Tea to be poured? The lassies will muck in.
Even my dad was at it
Player/Manager of the mighty Kinrossie AFC
Hall committee member
Recreation club executive
My parents on my wedding certificate
Farm labourer and retail assistant
Their resume of contribution tells so much more
And made for happy memories along the way
Mind the time the whole youth club went to Craigton Park?
Mind each Halloween when we all went guising?
Mind the Hogmanay parties in the hall?
A volunteering lifetime of stories and fun
An escape from the struggles
One that created belonging and wellbeing
Fulfilment and joy
Before they were measured by NPFs
Or Curriculum Capacities
A way of life for my maw
And I’m proud
That she’s still aye up to something