West End community health project awarded national volunteer accolade

Members of the Riverside Community Health Project receiving their Investors in Volunteering award.
Members of the Riverside Community Health Project receiving their Investors in Volunteering award.

West End-based ‘Riverside Community Health Project’ located in the former Benwell Library has recently been presented with the Investors in Volunteering award.  A region-wide first for any local charity throughout Tyne & Wear.

The award was unveiled by British charity executive and former social worker, Sir Stuart Etherington in front of gathered volunteers, who regularly use the centre’s services.

The Investors in Volunteering accolade is the UK quality standard for good practice in volunteer management. Achieving the standard shows current and potential volunteers just how much they are valued, and gives them confidence in the project’s ability to provide an outstanding volunteer experience.

Riverside’s Training and Volunteer Project was set up over six-years ago, and caters for people who are interested in learning new skills and wish to volunteer at the centre, and also other locations in the area including local primary schools.

On average the project delivers training, workshops and networks with 350 people a week; 97 of which are registered volunteers with Riverside; and there are 40 courses available across the year to people interested in gaining new skills.

The Riverside Community Health Project provides a variety of services under-one-roof including under 5’s weekly activities; the Riverside Playgroup; drop-in advice sessions (monetary and welfare advice); I.T workshops (job searches, form filling, finding cheaper energy suppliers); a migrant drop-in session; and women’s and international women’s group.

These are offered alongside other useful courses including basic English, Maths, Early Years NVQ, Social Care Training (paediatric first aid, lifting and handling, safeguarding, food hygiene and customer service training); health and safety; nail art; International cooking; health and safety; and equality and diversity.

Christine Irklis, Lead Volunteer, Training and Finance Coordinator at Riverside Community Health Project, said: “The project has received this award because we’ve met all of the rigorous standards for investing in  people, which means that every process and every procedure we have in place best supports our volunteers.

“This support starts the minute people first walk through the door, right through until the day they wish to leave the project. In that time we ensure all of their training needs are met. We also have an open door policy at Riverside, where people can dip in and out of the service whenever they require, which seems to work really well. We also support people on a day-to-day basis, if needed. 

“We also have some of our volunteers placed in other organisations around the West End , for example, the local food bank, schools, the Search Project, and in the credit unions. This helps to expand their knowledge and experience for future situations.”

Sir Stuart Etherington, said: “What this plaque demonstrates is that they [Riverside] treat their volunteers really well. This is an Investing in People standard. The first in this area, so this is really ground-breaking stuff from a fantastic project.

“They have received accreditation that demonstrates they are extremely good at managing and developing their volunteers. I think it will make it easier for them to recruit and engage with volunteers, and that’s a really important part of the work this great project does in the community.”

As part of the West Community and Family Hub, Riverside provides Sure Start services for families with children under five-years-old. The project also runs ‘stay and play’ sessions each weekday morning during term times, and three days a week during school holidays.

For further information about the Riverside Community Health Project please visit www.riversidechp.co.uk or check out their social media pages on Facebook ‘Riverside CHP’ and on Twitter @RiversideCHP.