Swale Volunteer Awards

Last week, SATEDA’s volunteer team were chosen from a long list of individuals and groups of volunteers, to be awarded an Outstanding Achievement Award.

This recognition for our volunteers has come at a difficult time, when continuation funding for the volunteer coordinator posts is being sought and amid reductions in funding to small local charities delivering domestic abuse services.

All volunteers provide a vital service within charities, but our volunteers are different. Most of them have experienced domestic abuse, and they want to use their traumatic experiences to help others. The involvement of volunteers, with lived experience of domestic abuse, in all areas of service is delivery is what we believe sets SATEDA apart from other organisations. Our volunteers will never forget what has happened to them, (we don’t ask them to) in fact some are still experiencing harassment from ex-partners, however they still choose to come along and help others – this in turn helps them to remember that they are valued, and worthy, their experiences were not their fault and they will not let their abusers hold them back any longer.

Sometimes, we need to give them some extra TLC, they may need to come away from the frontline, and we can offer them support – this happens when their ex-partners muck them around with child contact, harass them through the courts, continue to control them through their finances – or some other abusive behaviour aimed at clawing back control and exerting power. We will not punish our volunteers further by turning our back on them when they need us most – we understand that they may need some time away from working with clients – we also know that we have a duty to always keep our clients safe. But just as abusers don’t suddenly just stop trying to control their ex-partners, we shouldn’t expect our volunteers to simply “recover” and move on from the abuse – somethings are outside their control, and we will work with our volunteers to make sure they are safe, but still involved with the organisation – they are still valued, regardless of what tactics their ex-partner deploys to control them.

This is why the Employability Programme is important – just because someone has accessed a support worker, counselling, freedom programme, Power2Change, Support2Court (all of the services we offer people affected by abuse)– it does not mean that they will never need support again – working as a volunteer, and being supported by the volunteer coordinators offers them an ongoing part of their journey – a journey we will take with them.

This doesn’t appear to be a service provision which is on anyone else’s radar in terms of supporting people affected by DA – it’s certainly not included in any commissioned services’ discussion – but it’s what we believe works – its what our volunteers, and our clients tell us works. So, we are going to keep doing it – we just really hope we can access the funds to do it well, and expand, so more women can realise their potential, in the nurturing and inclusive environment that they deserve.

Everyone has a value – its up to us to help them realise it.