Cornwall is undoubtedly a beautiful county but it’s not all beaches and cream teas. Some areas are amongst the most deprived in the country, despite the blue flags and Michelin stars! Tourism success sticks to the coastline and for many, the postcard beaches are a world away from where they live. The loss of our mining and fishing industries has led to widespread under-employment and even for those with jobs, wages here are low.
The Cornish are stereotypically resilient and well used to resolving their own problems. Volunteer Cornwall is built on the vibrancy of local communities, supporting people to build social capital and fostering the wellbeing of individuals and communities by developing voluntary action. What this looks like in practice is an array of collaborative projects, volunteer brokerage, a dedicated training team and our biggest department – Transport.
A dispersed population means that few places are big enough for a full range of essential services to be delivered locally and people have to travel. At Volunteer Cornwall we coordinate over 200 volunteer drivers throughout the county helping people without cars or public transport options access those services and help community groups get their members to events. Our volunteer drivers also undertake work for the local authority, particularly in the areas of social care and school transport.
While all the transport provided by our volunteers furthers our charitable objectives, the funds raised by helping the local authority give our Transport Department the financial stability to provide transport to individuals in need without always covering our costs. We are also able to run our wheelchair accessible vehicles and manage a Shopmobility scheme in Truro. The work also pays some of the charity’s overheads so that projects can be run with more funding going to frontline work. In total Volunteer Cornwall drivers make in excess of 200 journeys happen every day to schools, hospitals and other socially beneficial activities and there are a great many people in the county for whom life would be much harder without our drivers’ efforts.
Cuts to public sector budgets have reduced the work available from the local authority and NHS but the need remains and is growing and so the third sector as a whole is stepping in – and Volunteer Cornwall is supporting that. For us this means doing more with less so we have to better manage our resources – but this is leading us into exciting new areas too. Our focus is on the beneficial effect of the act of volunteering so we are keen to find ways of making volunteer driving more rewarding, working closer with other charities.
We are embracing technology to help us coordinate the work more efficiently and effectively and in a way which better reflects our volunteers’ changing lifestyles. There are undoubtedly challenges ahead but we have ideas about how we will face them and feel confident about our future.