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Inspired by the Volunteer Conference 2018, Sensory Trust have made some changes to allow for the growth of their volunteer community…

Inspired by the Volunteer Conference 2018, Sensory Trust have made some changes to allow for the growth of their volunteer community…

Sensory Trust is a small, national charity dedicated to creating memorable, sensory-rich experiences that connect people and place. We are committed to making outdoor environments more accessible to everyone, regardless of age, disability and social circumstance. Based at the Eden Project in Cornwall we have a close team with diverse skills and, as part of this, we run a project for people living with dementia and their carers in the local communities of Cornwall.

Creative Spaces involves the running of 6 (to be 10 by March 2020) dementia-friendly nature based groups across Cornwall. The project began in 2012 and it’s funders include Comic Relief and the Arts Council. Our activity groups support people living with dementia and their carers to spend time in outdoor environments with others who are in similar situations to themselves.

In order for these groups to happen, we recruit and train volunteers across Cornwall to support the groups. The important distinction we make is that our volunteers support our group members to make their own decisions and encourage them to be independent for as long as possible, as opposed to act as group leaders. This manifests in various ways, such as: inviting our beneficiaries to select the places they walk, how far they go and what nature-based activities they do.

Since attending the Volunteer Conference in 2018 we have implemented some new ideas which were very much inspired by this event: firstly, as part of volunteer week in June, we asked our beneficiaries to share their personal thank you messages for the volunteers with us, allowing us to create personalised volunteer awards for each of our volunteers. We have also created bespoke Sensory Trust Induction Training which all of our volunteers as their role begins. This involves a visual, team game titled: “What does a Sensory Trust volunteer look like?” which emphasises the nuances of the role, from physical support to emotional. We have also created a bespoke Volunteer Pack, specific to Sensory Trust. This contains our policies – such as Safeguarding, Professional Boundaries, Equality and Diversity, as well a copy of our Expenses Form, Consent Form, Accident Form and a Welcome Letter. The pack also lays out the role of the volunteer within a Volunteer Agreement Form which reinforces the points they cover in the game mentioned above. All volunteers are required to sign and return their Volunteer Agreement Form which states that they have read through the policies and are making a commitment to the role of a Sensory Trust volunteer.

We have found both the pack and training to be greatly beneficial for providing greater clarity about the volunteer role within our activity groups across our volunteers. As our groups grow in numbers, and thus so do our numbers of volunteers, we feel reassured that our volunteers have a good grounding from which they can feel confident, supported and happy in their volunteer role with our organisation.

If you would like to find out more about Sensory Trust’s volunteer programme, including the volunteer pack and training, or to find out more about the trust and Creative Spaces, please contact Ellie Robinson-Carter on [email protected]. You can also visit their website