It's great that something as simple as volunteering can change a life. In fact, lives. You can help change the lives of people with serious medical conditions or disabilities. With New Year resolutions fresh in our minds, volunteering can be the perfect way to create positive change.

The Herts MS Therapy Centre in Letchworth helps anyone with a long term or neurological condition. We help as many people as we can, in any way we can. We provided over 14,800 treatments during 2017, and Oxygen Therapy is growing fastest of all. It helps people with neurological conditions, like MS, Parkinson's and stroke.

Volunteers at our charity help in four different ways:

  1. Supporting Admin, Finance and Reception

  2. Hands on helping the Physiotherapists

  3. Getting involved with PR, Marketing or Fundraising

  4. Trained carefully to deliver Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. (This is where people breathe pure oxygen under gentle pressure. It helps lots of people improve their quality of life.)

Paul Farenden is a great example of a volunteer here. He says: “I volunteer every Tuesday morning, running two sessions of oxygen therapy alongside a fellow volunteer. The process is structured, training is given and very clear direction and support is provided.”

At the Herts MS Therapy Centre, we believe that volunteers are so valuable that we want the best informal and structured support for them. The informal support flows from a culture we intentionally build with informality, fun and care at its heart. The structured support is the foundation of policies and procedures, that define how we recruit and support volunteers. When it is working well, this combination of informal and structured support gives a charity the best possible opportunity to attract high quality volunteers and retain them for years. Everyone needs to feel valued and appreciated; volunteers included.

Volunteers are defined as staff, because they work for the charity. The main difference is that they are not paid. All staff including volunteers need the clarity of induction as to the purpose and projects of the charity, with a clear role description and person specification, induction and training, informal support and structured supervisions and appraisals. You wouldn't just employ a paid member of staff and then think about what you want them to do. The same goes for volunteers. Everyone needs clarity on what they are expected to do.

Some volunteers come for the short term. Some stay for years. However, do not underestimate the positive effect of even a short term volunteering opportunity. If you treat that volunteer with respect and dignity, you have the potential of creating a lifelong friend for your charity - and one more person who "gets" what you are about.

People tell their friends about their experiences - good and bad. So every volunteer is part of building - or undermining - the reputation of your charity. Make sure they have a good experience. The time you invest will then pay back again and again.

Usually people come at a regular time per week. That way, volunteers get to know the clients coming regularly at the same time. Good friendships develop as people get to know each other. The welcoming, supportive atmosphere created by our staff and volunteers makes a huge difference to the people using the Centre.

For more information, you can call Claire on 01462 684 214 or email volunteering@hmstc.net. Alternatively, you can visit their website at http://www.hertsmstherapy.org.uk/.