By KLTV Newsdesk –
The role that volunteers have played locally in supporting their local communities during the Covid-19 pandemic will be marked with a special online photographic exhibition.
Third Sector Leaders Kirklees and Kirklees Museums & Galleries are organising the exhibition, and it will initially be launched online to coincide with National Volunteers’ Week which takes place 1-7 June every year.
The exhibition will then become part of the council’s Museums & Galleries collection.
Bringing together images and stories of individuals living in the Kirklees area, the plan is to showcase those who gave their time to help others during the past 12 months.
Speaking on the plans, Becky Bracey, Volunteer Development Manager at Third Sector Leaders Kirklees, said: “National Volunteers Week is an opportunity for us to recognise and thank all volunteers across Kirklees.
“We have experienced a year like no other and we wanted to do something special as a permanent reminder of the significant role volunteers have played during the pandemic.”
Becky added that the partnership with Kirklees Museums will ensure that the volunteering stories from across the borough will become part of social history for years to come.
She said: “We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has volunteered or simply been ‘neighbourly’ during this time, the power of communities to pull together and help each other has been truly inspiring.”
Initially, the exhibition will be available to view on the TSL Kirklees website before becoming a real-life exhibition later this year, with the aim to take it on the road in a tour around Kirklees, before entering the Museums & Galleries collection.
Over 20 volunteers who’ve all have very different experiences and have offered their time in different ways have shared images and stories for the exhibition.
Mehmet and Arjola, from Huddersfield, are two such volunteers who will be featured.
They volunteer with the Welcome Mentors programme, run by TSL Kirklees and are part of a team of around 90 Volunteers who speak over 50 different languages.
During the pandemic, they have been translating important key messages about covid restrictions, testing and vaccinations, as well as signposting to support services.
Mehmet explains: “My wife and I are bi-lingual, and in our volunteer role we are actively supporting individuals and families, carrying out welfare checks, translation work, providing buddy calls to people in need and helping people to settle in Kirklees.
“We have helped families register a birth and enrol their children at school. We had very special memories during our volunteering, and we have learnt a lot.
“It helped us adapt quickly to living in Kirklees, and we feel like we’ve been living here for a long time now.”
Give a Few Words
14- year old twins Dan and Imi, from Huddersfield, decided they could help by clearing out their wardrobes to donate clothes to people in need and packing stationery for kids who were homeschooling.
They then decided to volunteer for ‘Give a Few Words’ which provides letters to people who are socially isolated, included Care Home residents.
As they explain: “When we heard about this fantastic initiative we couldn’t wait to help!
“Our letters take approximately 30 minutes to write, the subject steered mainly around the interests of the recipient although we do talk about our day, hobbies and life in general!”
Dan said: “Writing letters throughout quarantine has been really fulfilling, showing kindness and caring to others.”
Imi agreed: “I have loved writing letters, during this difficult time. Writing the letters has made me feel happy that I was able to do something positive to help other people during lockdown.”
Sewing for Those in Need
Amy, from Thornhill in Dewsbury, was already supporting new parents over the phone as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter with Locala when the pandemic started and so was able to continue providing for isolated new parents.
However, as she also helps with a local craft and sewing club, Amy quickly became involved in helping to make scrubs for frontline health workers who were dealing with Covid.
Amy’s enterprise quickly expanded, as she and three others launched a GoFundMe page for £250 to raise funds for the project.
Very soon, Amy found herself managing a group of around 30 people. The GoFundMe raised £1500 and the combined efforts of the group produced 162 pairs of scrubs, as well as hundreds of washbags and hats.
Amy said: “It was an amazing project, and it was a privilege to be involved. At a time of real loneliness and anxiety here was a group of strangers all working together (yet entirely separately) as a solid unit.
“I am so proud to have played a part in the whole thing and proud to part of such a passionate and hardworking community of women.”
Speaking on the exhibition, Councillor Will Simpson, Cabinet Member for Culture and Greener Kirklees, said: “We are delighted to be working with TSL Kirklees to create this historic record that will become part of the Museums & Galleries collection.
“It’s so important to document the collective efforts of the communities of Kirklees during the extraordinary, and unprecedented, times of Covid lockdown.
“In the future, people will be able to look back at these photographs, taken at this time of national crisis, and reflect on the contributions of these volunteers, their individual stories and how the people of Kirklees came together during the pandemic to support each other.”
The exhibition will be available to view for free from Tuesday 1 June 2021.
Alongside the exhibition, the TSL Volunteering team have given small grants to 36 organisations in Kirklees to use to thank their volunteers and have already sent out over 1000 thank you cards.
The end of Volunteers’ Week will be marked with a Virtual Volunteers’ Fair from 8th to 10th June.
Kirklees Council (along with other councils in West Yorkshire) will be lighting up Huddersfield, Cleckheaton, Dewsbury and Batley Town Halls in purple to mark the start of Volunteers’ Week and say thank you to local volunteers on Tuesday 1st June.