Having run across Jo Mcpherson on various occasions in Rochford, and heard that she
was with “SAVS” we concluded that here was another large area of our ignorance (and
perhaps yours too) and that we should remedy that situation. Knowing she often met
with Jackie Pope at St. Marks Hall in Rochford, we met her there and received our
education! We hope you’ll find it as interesting as we did! Jo is the Essex Youth
Volunteer Development Manager in SAVS. Although it is Southend based, you’ll see
as you read through the interview, Jo is very concerned with Rochford as well. Again,
as we often do with large interviews, we have provided subtitles to make reading
easier. We hope you find it useful.
Rochford Life: Jo, SAVS is Southend, but you cover Rochford as well don’t you? Would
you tell us something about SAVS please.
SAVS and the benefits of youth volunteering
Jo: Yes, basically, how the charity came about: vinvolved was part Government funded
and part funded from a lot of large companies such as Sky, MTV, Tesco’s T-mobile.
They invested a total of £88.5M into creating more volunteering opportunities for
young people. Now the idea behind that really, is for 16 to 25 year olds, who are
the highest unemployed group, to gain through volunteering, experience, social skills,
something to add to their CV. It can also help them with their career choice. Many
careers, such as the Police, will not accept anybody who hasn’t done any volunteering.
It’s part of the entry requirements to join the Police, as with other public services.
Of course along the way they can gain accreditation.
RL: Is this for just some in that age bracket?
Jo: The volunteering idea for 16 to 25 years is for ALL 16 to 25 year olds so, for
instance, you can have some guys who have left school with perhaps not the best education
outcome wondering how to access work. For example one lad wanted to be a doorman.
He went to a few nightclubs and they said you’ve got to get some experience. That
young person volunteered with us at the V-Festival as a steward, so he’s now got
that added to his CV plus a few other events he’s done.
At the other end of the spectrum, I had a young lady who was a forensic scientist
and she wanted to do some volunteering. She volunteered with NHS South East Essex
and the man with whom she was placed rang me up and said she’s far more qualified
that most of my staff, but she was having trouble getting employment because they
wanted experience. The biggest impact of Youth Volunteering is the impact it can
have on the community through their involvement and, in the longer term, the social
skills that they learn from helping another person.
RL: OK, one line sentence, vision statement for SAVS
SAVS, RAVS & CAVS
Jo:SAVS is separate from vinvolved and is the management company and so manages
the vinvolved project. SAVS put in the bid for vinvolved to be run. SAVS won the
bid to manage the project over Essex, Southend and Thurrock. SAVS is a CVS (Council
for Voluntary Services), one of the biggest in Essex. SAVS is there to support voluntary
organisations as are the other local CVS’s (being RAVS for Rochford area and CAVS
for Castle Point area), but you do find that all CVS’s tend to work in partnership
anyway and they manage the project, vinvolved, part of the national charity for youth
RL: How do you come to be doing this? What is your background?
Jo: My being community minded comes from a very early age. From when I was about
twelve I used to help with Riding for the Disabled then progressed into a riding
instructor for Riding for the Disabled. I used to do a lot of fund raising for the
PDSA. Then I worked for Heath Lambert. In my role there I was involved with the sports
and social club which meant I used to get involved in all the charity events, promoting
those and getting staff involved. We did the Three Peak Challenge for Cancer Research.
We used to do a lot of fund raising for Little Havens and Fair Havens and also for
the RNIB. Heaths then moved to Swindon about fifteen years ago so it was a case of
relocation or redundancy, but I was fortunate enough to be contacted by a friend
in RNIB to join their fund raising team. I worked for the RNIB for eight years. I
then worked for Grooms-Shaftsbury Homes and then for RAVS as their volunteer centre
manager and then I was approached and this job with SAVS pointed out to me. It’s
a three year project which ends in March.
RL: So the obvious question has to be what happens in March?
Jo: Come March I have a few options open to me. V will still exist, it’s just that
the support mechanism of vinvolved, going out to young people in schools, promoting
volunteering, matching the young person to the volunteering role, that won’t be there
any more. Really it’s going to be down to young people who want to volunteer to go
to the V web site and register themselves, and that is how it will work.
RL: Doesn’t that leave them in limbo, with nothing for them?
Jo: Well the government has got a citizenship programme. We’re still not quite clear
how this project will work, but that will be working again with schools getting young
people volunteering again
RL: In your three years has it been successful?
The Success of the Past Three Years
Jo: Oh yes, hugely successful. It’s been brilliant. The case studies I could give
you where it’s made such an impact on the young people’s lives, even local young
people – we’ve got two young volunteers who have gone through to the national finals.
There’s eight gone through so we’re really proud of that because we’ve got two from
down here in South East of Essex.
One young lady is from Rochford. She’s had a huge journey. She suffered from a mental
health illness, she got involved with volunteering and her self esteem grew. She
was obviously very passionate about her illness, especially in young people. Recently
she did a film with ITV – ITV Fixers – and the film has been put up for various awards,
and she’s now at university.
Locally, another young guy actually went on a Firebreak course (CLICK HERE). He was
recognised a being a bit of a problem at school and on the Firebreak course, and
he started volunteering with the Fire Service. He’s now in paid employment that he’s
doing really well in. I can honestly say that I’ve never met anybody who started
volunteering who has either regretted it or not enjoyed it. They have always come
back and said that was a really good experience.
To continue to Part 2 of Interview, please CLICK HERE
“When I first started volunteering I thought that my time would help others and I
wanted to give something back to the community. What I didn’t realise was how much
it would help myself! Since volunteering my confidence and communication skills have
grown hugely. Not only that but I have gained so many new skills with courses I have
been on through my volunteering, such as computer literacy and minute taking. I could
not recommend volunteering enough, it opens so many doors and is great fun too!”
Emma v volunteer
Organisations: SAVS (Southend Association of Voluntary Services)