Mindfulness in Volunteering | Volunteer Forum

VAST’s new Volunteer Forum is a peer support space to give volunteers in and around Stoke-on-Trent an opportunity to provide valuable insight, share ideas, and improve volunteering in the local area. VAST is dedicated to supporting volunteering across the city and facilitates this forum to ensure that volunteering is safe and inclusive for all.

What’s involved in the forum:

  • Sharing feedback and perspectives on a range of volunteering topics, including recruitment, training, recognition, support, and resources.
  • To raise awareness and understanding of volunteering related issues
  • To improve networking and co-operation between organisations and across voluntary and statutory sectors
  • Discussing upcoming or developing volunteer projects.
  • Offering views and ideas for improving the volunteer experience and growing the volunteer community across the local area.

 In February, VAST hosted our second Volunteer Forum particularly aimed at volunteers who are asylum seekers and refugees. The focus was on mindfulness, with a local business offering their time and experience to deliver this session for us. Rebecca, from Environmental Essentials, is also a qualified mindfulness instructor. She kindly gave her time to run a session around mindfulness, being aware of your breathing, and even included a couple of simple craft activities to encourage mindfulness.

As the event took place during Ramadan, we offered free food packages for them to take away and enjoy when appropriate if they were fasting. We spoke with Johura, one of our volunteers before the event to find out what would be suitable to include. We also provided simple children’s activities that they could take away for their families to encourage mindfulness at home too.

We had nine attendees for the session who are volunteering at a range of local organisations including Asha, VAST, Royal Voluntary Service and Sanctus. The nine attendees started the session by focusing on their breathing and learning a range of different techniques to figure out their own mindful breathing. You could really sense the feeling of relaxation moving its way across the room! A lot of the techniques discussed were visual, which is a great way to communicate the importance of mindful breathing, especially for volunteers who speak English as a second (or sometimes third!) language.

We then moved onto using air-dry clay to form our own worry stones, which can be used subtly in times of nerves and anxiety. The volunteers thoroughly enjoyed using the air-dry clay, so we continued to let them use the clay to make other items. You can see on the photo that Johura made a beautiful bouquet of flowers! It was wonderful to see their creativity shine through.

The volunteers all thoroughly enjoyed talking about their experiences with volunteering and relating it back to how it helps their mental health. The addition of the resources around mindfulness was very beneficial and several of the volunteers said that they had never done anything like this before. You can see below from their quotes how many of them plan to use the mindfulness techniques both in their personal lives and their volunteering.

This is a great way to upskill volunteers and let them spread the positivity within their own organisations.

  • “I needed this. I feel so relaxed!”
  • “I will do some of the breathing exercises when I feel stressed.”
  • “I have really enjoyed today. I haven’t done anything like this before.”
  • “I felt so stressed recently. It’s taken some of the pressure off.”
  • “I will share these exercises with the people I support through my volunteering.”

 We are looking forward to our next Volunteers Forum and following the success of this session, we’ll be aiming to include a little bit of mindfulness in every Forum. We are excited to see how the Volunteers Forum continues to grow and thrive.