Let’s zoom in today on a practical example on how well we can tailor sometimes volunteer activities to suit and engage families. We get inspired by Serve the City which seeks to improve the well-being of marginalized and vulnerable people across Ireland, with a focus on Galway City and County Dublin. Whilst family volunteering is typically best modeled around ‘traditional projects’, Serve the City plans on replicating this for projects associated with COVID-19 support, and their pilot volunteering programme “Bubble Buddy” has had some success in 2020.

As the volunteer manager for Serve the City, I see tremendous benefit and also significant need for family volunteering. Whilst volunteering alongside COVID continues, one-challenge remains keeping the client separate from permissible activities – this is where a husband/wife duo is necessary/handy. We have emerged from the emergency Community Call type of volunteering in Q2 2020, and now see a need for specialist community support. In this instance, the husband/wife duo again can attend to different tasks in the home, and in the process limit community transmission. In general, there are some larger projects (garden renovation/painting/home repair), where a team of people will be necessary. In this instance I have considered housemates all living under one roof, as this is easy to schedule and again reduces community transmission.”

Brad Wilmot, Serve the City, Dublin

Their ‘traditional projects’, mostly on hold in 2020 due to COVID-19, include garden overhauls and DIY / Home Improvement projects (including deep cleaning, decluttering, and de-hoarding). Serve the City also coordinates specialist social inclusion projects each year to empower, upskill and uplift the lives of migrant workers and those seeking asylum in Ireland. In 2020, the organization adapted to the need across Ireland for community support during public health restrictions associated with COVID-19 and launched several new projects including hot meal delivery, book parcel delivery, supermarket shopping, essential home repairs, specialist befriending, and emergency food banks. For the last 2 years, they have been providing opportunities for different types of family volunteering, but informally:

-> Family ‘R’. This is a husband and wife team, where one person is a Garda vetted project leader and the other is a volunteer/beneficiary coordinator. Several projects have run successfully with this duo, where home improvements are undertaken by the husband and his wife tends to look after the client.

-> Their hot meal delivery project involves a family ‘WR’ – a mother and her three children (>18). They have adopted a rota system to deliver meals to marginalized and vulnerable groups in the community, on different days of the week, in order to fully complete one week assigned to the family.

-> Bubble Buddy practical volunteering involves some mother/daughter combinations. One example is one where the mother assists beneficiaries in a specialist manner (as she is a qualified occupational therapist in the area of social welfare), and the daughter attends to emergency matters in the house, such as changing light bulbs for the same beneficiaries with limited mobility.

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