Stephen, Carole and Sharon are Parkinson's UK volunteers. Each one lives in a different place, comes from a different background and has a different role but they have one thing in common - they are part of the Parkinson's UK team helping to find a cure and improve life for everyone affected by the condition.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the charity. Our 3,000 strong army of volunteers works tirelessly across the organisation taking part in everything from cheering on our marathon runners to helping to recruit new staff, offering friendship and running local support groups to answering calls on the helpline. Whilst they bring an invaluable 'extra pair of hands', that is certainly not the extent of their support. Our volunteers have a range of specialist skills, knowledge and experience along with a fresh perspective, always with the needs of people affected by Parkinson's at the heart.
So what impact can volunteers have?
Last year our self-management programme saw 38 volunteer facilitators working together with people with Parkinson's to navigate their future. The facilitators, themselves affected by Parkinson's, provided 326 people with the support and tools they needed to start to take control of the condition.
Our Turn to Us Volunteer Project also had great success where a team of over 50 volunteers across the UK, alongside regional staff and our volunteer local groups, targeted more than 1,500 locations in the most hard to reach areas of the UK to make sure they had our resources available. We estimate we reached more than 88,600 people affected by Parkinson's with this approach, which will now be rolled out across the UK.
However there are some volunteer roles where it can be harder to see how they have a direct impact - roles such as a volunteer car park marshal or a case study volunteer. Yet, the car park marshal ensures a fundraising event runs smoothly and more money can be raised to help find a cure. The case study volunteer helps to raise awareness of the charity's work so people affected by Parkinson's know about our services and can get help when they need it.
It has to work both ways though so what do volunteers get out of volunteering with us? Friendship, insight, a purpose and motivation are just a few of the things we've heard from our volunteers.
It's vital that volunteers are recognised and supported throughout their roles which is why we recently designed a new volunteer induction to help our volunteers have the best possible start to their new roles. Written by volunteers for volunteers, the induction features quizzes, videos and various scenarios and will be launched in the coming weeks.
Another way to show our volunteers how valued they are is through national Volunteers' Week which starts today. This year our celebrations will include an exciting short film and a volunteer 'Twitter Takeover' where a volunteer will take over the Parkinson's UK Twitter account and tweet about her experiences as a volunteer.
The reality is that every volunteer role counts and every person that gives their time is making an impact on people affected by Parkinson's.
Big or small it all adds up and without it, we would not be able to support people living with Parkinson's in as many different ways. But there is still a lot more to do and we need more volunteers to join us.
All that is left to say is thank you to our incredible Parkinson's UK volunteers. Thank you on behalf of everyone who continues to benefit from your support and dedication.
Volunteers' Week runs from 1-7 June. For more information about the Parkinson's UK volunteering programme or to find out how to get involved please visit www.parkinsons.org.uk or contact the Volunteering team on 020 7963 9328.