Celebrating local volunteer recruitment with Read Easy
“We were really looking for people to be local. It’s why Volunteer Centre Hackney has actually proved to be the best source of volunteers.”
Read Easy Hackney is a recently-affiliated group to the national charity, Read Easy UK, which was set up in 2010 by Ginny Williams Ellis to support adults who had never learnt to read. In 2015, Read Easy UK commissioned a report to look at expanding into London, in particular Hackney.
Whilst the organisation had been running for several years, it was recognised that in seeking to expand into London, there might need to be a different approach to recruiting volunteers and setting up the programme in the borough. Serena Naismith, then Pioneer of the Hackney group, got in touch with VCH to talk through some of the possible challenges with VCH.
Why did Read Easy get in touch with Volunteer Centre Hackney?
“I was looking online for volunteering organisations and VCH came up. When I contacted Charlotte and Rupal, we arranged for me to come in and meet them both… They helped me to navigate my way to setting up an advert for Reading Coach volunteers… We were really looking for people to be local. It’s why Volunteer Centre Hackney has actually proved to be the best source of volunteers.”
The team had already had a lot of interest in volunteering through the Read Easy UK website. For Serena, the aim of meeting with and involving VCH in Read Easy Hackney’s volunteer recruitment was to enable the organisation to connect with a very local group of potential volunteers “because of the need for volunteers to come twice a week for short sessions of 30 minutes with their readers.” These sessions and their regularity mean that whilst the role can be flexible, it is also time-intensive and requires a longer commitment than some similar roles. Local people might also be better able to understand their readers’ lives and challenges.
The Reading Coach role is accessible, enabling more people to become potential volunteers. “Reading coaches attend a one-day training session. The programme they use with readers, Turning Pages, is specially-developed for adult readers. You do not need to be a teacher of English or Literacy – anybody who is able to read and has patience can be a reading coach.”
What did VCH do?
Through meetings and telephone conversations, the team and Serena explored the key areas of the role for volunteers, writing and developing role descriptions, where to advertise in Hackney and what networks the team could tap into, as well as exploring the possible challenges in recruitment and how to make the registration and application process inclusive.
What has been the result?
Following this initial support, Read Easy Hackney advertised the role online via Volunteer Connect as well as on local forums. Response to the roles online has been very good – and has helped the organisation engage both reading coaches and management team members. Read Easy Hackney currently has 12 volunteers in their management team, 3 of whom came via VCH, and 17 volunteer coaches, 6 who have come directly through Volunteer Centre Hackney.
Following a successful training day for volunteer coaches, Serena and Deb, have now paired up their first set of new readers with trained Reading Coaches, with 11 reader-coach pairings so far, plus a waiting list for new readers looking for support and new coaches wanting to be trained.
Read Easy has begun the next recruitment round for Volunteer Reading Coaches to receive training in spring 2019, but are keen to get volunteers involved across the charity. Take a look at some of the roles available online here or sign up for more information at their website.
Do you know someone who would like support to help them learn to read? Get in touch with Read Easy.