People, purpose, projects: NewLink Wales re-awarded Investing In Volunteers mark for fourth time For the fourth time running, NewLink Wales has received the WCVA Investing in Volunteers mark, having been the first organisation in Wales to receive the Award in 2005. The Award recognises our ongoing commitment to the people we work with across our projects, and helps demonstrate our determination to keep innovating, to uphold high standards, and to do what we do better than ever before. Making it about people ‘The most important part of running our projects is having a clear understanding of everyone who’s there,’ explains Mel, the coordinator for our MILE programme, which prepares people in recovery from wellbeing challenges for volunteering and employment in the wellbeing sector. ‘There’s no one-size-fits all approach; you have to work to the skills and strengths of each volunteer.’ This focus on individual strengths, needs and abilities is the core of how we work, as is complete honesty and openness with our project members. Our assessment process allows us to place people in the projects that are going to work best for them at their current stage of recovery. This means that if individuals aren’t ready for the project they were hoping to access, we can still include them in work that will move them forward. ‘This way of working means that we can always offer people opportunities that are achievable, and suited to them as people,’ explains Erwan, coordinator of the NewSteps project, which operates as a starting point for people early in their recovery journey. ‘It’s a big part of building their confidence and self-belief, and that’s absolutely essential for their growth.’ Another key of this self-belief element is agency – giving people control over their wellbeing, and over the projects and services that they’re part of. This is something we’ve really focused on over the last year, most notably with our Voices and Choices Group and our Buzzin Buddies programme. Buzzin Buddies gives volunteers and members from across our projects the opportunity to have a hand in running our Buzzin beekeeping project, and in bringing other members on board. Voices and Choices is a project member group that gives feedback on projects from the point of view of those involved in them, helping shape those projects and also influencing our overall approach. Both groups are a hugely valuable resource and help make sure that that our projects are always working for the people they’re there for. What does the Investing in Volunteering Mark mean for us? The Investing in Volunteers mark forms part of the reputation and identity of our services, and also helps show partner agencies that we’re actively working to ensure the quality of our projects. For our external placement volunteers who seek employment in the wellbeing sector, it also shows that their training and preparation are of a high standard, and helps add to the sense of pride they feel in having completed our programmes. It’s also important for providing a core set of benchmarks on which to base the future growth of our projects; a baseline to aim for and maintain. ‘For us, achieving the investing in volunteers award is our way of showing how much we value the importance of volunteering and recognise the worth of volunteers in our charity and across the sector’ says former CEO John Lowes. ‘Remarkable people give their time freely to help support great causes, and a good volunteering experience can really make such a difference for both organisations and the volunteers themselves. Ensuring the best volunteering standards, through Investing in Volunteers, is one of the ways we can say ‘thank you’, and commit to facilitating the most worthwhile opportunities.’ What’s next for our projects? NewLink Wales has recently become part of Platfform, the charity for mental health and social change. Adding our projects to Platfform’s own extensive range allows us to be part of an even stronger team, and a greater force for wellbeing and making change. Platfform is the mental health and social change charity. Platfform works with people who are experiencing challenges with their mental health, and with communities who want to create a greater sense of connection, ownership and wellbeing in the places that they live. www.platfform.org NewLink Wales is a wellbeing charity that works with anyone affected by, or at risk of, behaviours that are harmful to health and wellbeing. The charity’s mission is to help build sustainable, long-term positive change for individuals and communities.