Volunteering matters – supporting others to be included and take part – Livability

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Volunteering matters – supporting others to be included and take part

Last month, Livability got it’s ‘festival on’ and headed to Greenbelt for a weekend of all things arts, justice and faith. As an event partner, Livability also deliver a range of contributions during the weekend. This year – an accessible communion service in partnership with Greenbelt, a seminar on community engagement work and a busy festival tent, full of deck chairs, to welcome visitors and friends, old and new – to our charity community. None of it is possible without the help of our amazing volunteers who help us deliver our programme during the weekend and take time to get to know people at the event. We spoke to Bernie Williams – a volunteer during the weekend – about her involvement with Livability.

Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Bernie Williams, I live in Hampshire and I work part-time in admin for our local drop-in youth centre (I’m a teacher by profession). I’m a vicar’s wife and I have two grown-up children.

Why did you volunteer for Livability at Greenbelt festival?

I knew that volunteers were needed last year, so I came along and the team were so great – they were the reason I came back again! Very friendly, very approachable, good fun. They make you really welcome and include you. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people.

What did you do?

I helped on the Livability exhibition stand, greeting people, answering queries and listening to people’s stories. I could always call on another member of the team to help me if I didn’t know the answer to something.

How did Greenbelt’s site do for accessibility, in your view?

I’ve never seen so much inclusivity at a festival – there was wheelchair-accessible matting all over the site, accessible toilets and showers with hoists. I was amazed at how many people with additional needs come to Greenbelt.

Working with others to overcome social isolation is why Livability exists. Did you see that happening at Greenbelt?

We live in a very individualistic society and it’s very easy to be isolated, whether you’re perhaps single, or live with a disability, or whatever. Livability is there to show ways we can get together. Greenbelt’s theme this year was ‘the common good’ and I think Livability is very good at that – saying we’re here, we can help you be part of something, you’re not on your own. And if we can’t help, we might be able to put you in touch with someone who can.

What difference did Livability make at Greenbelt?

Livability has a fantastic role at the event. For disabled people, or those that have relatives or friends who are disabled, Livabilty was a really good place to come to see how, as a church or as a family, they could get some help and resources.

Enabling people to take part, contribute and be valued is at the heart of Livability’s work. How did you see that working out at Greenbelt?

The inclusive communion service was amazing! I’ve never been in a service that was so accessible. A young woman called Becky preached using a special voice assist technology, someone who was confined to bed Skyped the service and people with learning and physical disabilities did the prayers. When we took communion, we had cards with pictures on to use, so everybody could take part whatever their literacy level, children to adults. I found it very uplifting. It was so moving.

What did you take away with you as a result of volunteering?

A real sense of community. As a team, you felt you were contributing to something – I think it inspired people. And it was lovely and sunny, which was a bonus!

To find out more about how you can volunteer, visit our Join In section.

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