Talk to Mike Hall, Volunteer Facilitator in RNIB's North East Network, and you’ll be left in no doubt of his passion for volunteers.
“Being a volunteer manager to me means treating everyone as an individual, listening, finding out what people want and working collaboratively to make that happen. I’m a community asset. I go out and meet the potential volunteers and get to know them as individuals."
"All of us, the whole North East Network team, take time out to sit and talk and befriend people, nurturing them, giving them a purpose, bringing them through. I don’t believe in just taking volunteers on for the sake of numbers, it has to be meaningful. At the last count we had 42 volunteers and all of them are actively involved in our work. I know them all, I speak regularly to them all. And what’s even more remarkable is that 96 per cent of this volunteer workforce are blind or partially sighted. It’s amazing to be a part of, and it’s all about the different approach that the team here has used."
“We’ve achieved it by sitting down with people and giving time to sit and talk to people, to find out what they want from RNIB. Rather than saying 'this is what you’re going to get' we ask, 'what do you really want?' because this is a partnership, and working with new Network structure has made this possible.”
But how did Mike get started?
“I initially contacted all the volunteer agencies in the area to find out where blind and partially sighted people are and what they want to do when they volunteer. A lot of blind and partially sighted people have been going to agencies and getting the door closed on them because nobody wants to work with them. I did all the ground work and met with all 13 agencies, did presentations about RNIB at their team meetings, really got to know them. And now we’re getting some great volunteers!”
In 2017 Mike took a call from a volunteer agency who said they had a young man who was looking for opportunities to impact his local community. So Mike went to meet Lewis: “When I met him I wanted to take him on, to work with him, I saw potential and believed in him.”
Lewis says: “RNIB was so welcoming and non-judgemental. With having sight loss myself I’m familiar with the hardships that people go through, so it was just so refreshing and that really gave me the ambition to want to make a difference in my local community.”
One year on and Lewis had the confidence to apply for the paid position of Regional Assistant Campaigns Officer within the Network. He got the job!
Mike says of his new colleague: “Lewis blended in so well because he had the experience of volunteering with us and knew the whole team. He’s a natural fit.”
So how’s Lewis getting on? Well he’s managing his own team of volunteers, building a strong and vibrant community and loving his new job:
“I can’t believe I get paid as an employee to do something that I’m so passionate about!”