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We, leaders of volunteers (#LoVols) have shared experiences, shared hopes, shared challenges and a shared future. We are a family, a team, a brother/sisterhood. We are a LoVols kindred. When one of us succeeds, all of us succeed and all volunteerism succeeds.

Forging alliances, finding one another, speaking with shared voices (we don’t have to agree on everything) strengthens us and our volunteers. Recently, Marina Paraskevaidi, Volunteer Manager at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich wrote to me and wanted to share her thoughts with all of you in a LoVols kindred moment. Marina hails from Greece, has lived in Italy where she served as a volunteer coordinator with the NGO Service Civil International and since moving to the UK, she works as the Volunteer Manager at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, overseeing the overall strategic direction of the Volunteering Programme.

Each one of us can share our challenges, successes, questions, frustrations, and hopes with one another because we get each other and guess what? We support each other, want to see each other succeed, and we all are working towards the same thing: Elevating volunteerism. Here is Marina’s message:

When joining the Old Royal Naval College a little less than a year ago, I could never have imagined our site being closed same time this year due to an unpredictable pandemic that would keep us all at home (like a sci-fi post-apocalyptic movie). But amidst the uncertainty, our communities stay strong.

The past two weeks have been a rollercoaster of reactions and emotions for all staff and volunteers. First, the uncertainty kicked in when the news spread about COVID-19 cases rising across Europe, while we were still on a let’s-pretend-it’s-all-normal mode on site, planning volunteer-led private tours, organising group reciprocal visits to other museums, conducting volunteer recruitment interviews and preparing upcoming induction training sessions.  Then, following the announced set of restrictions, the situation escalated so quickly, and we had to make swift changes to our everyday lives. A regular day in the beginning of March now feels a distant past. We had to take the decision to close our site to the public, while still processing the prospect of many of us having to isolate for weeks, even months, thinking especially of our volunteers who are in the most vulnerable groups.

Ten days later, our new home-based routine is the norm and it looks like we are adapting to new virtual ways to keep in touch and support each other in the best way we know: sharing the love. 

From volunteers asking about their peers’ wellbeing and sending personal warm wishes, to our staff mobilising team efforts to produce resources that can be accessible remotely; from our CEO’s reassuring message, to people going beyond and above to show solidarity and help each other while working remotely with limited resources. 

It’s the same warm welcoming feeling that sparkles around in the Visitors Centre when volunteers put on their best smile to greet our visitors, it’s this shared love for what we do and who we are that drives solidarity among our communities.

A lot of things remain uncertain and yet to be figured out: how do we keep in touch with those not online? How do we ensure we look after our staff and volunteer’s mental health? How can we be creative using virtual technology to communicate, offer online learning opportunities and organise local initiatives? How can we continue sharing our history and engage the public while closed? Can we think outside the box and create remote volunteering opportunities?

The most difficult times might be yet to come, but I have always been a strong believer in the power of communities (and that’s also why I have chosen to work with volunteers): through the challenges we will learn, pave new paths and come out stronger on the other side. 

Spread the love, Marina

Thank you Marina for reaching out to all of us. We appreciate your courage, your conviction and your connection. I appreciate your LoVols kindred spirit.

Spread love, knowledge, support, a shoulder to cry on, a tip on recruitment, a success story, a cautionary tale, an innovative project with each other. Find one another and use this time to build momentum. Volunteers are counting on us.

It’s not easy, building a movement, but we are in this together.