Encouraging families to volunteer together

Cheshire West Voluntary Action’s (CWVA) Families Together project has helped families enjoy physical activity outdoors and give something back to the community at the same time.

Funded by Sport England, CWVA has run Families Together alongside Community and Voluntary Services (CVS) Cheshire East and Warrington Voluntary Action (WVA), aiming to increase the amount of physical activity families take part in through volunteering.

This includes activities like land clearance, planting trees and bulbs and litter picking, helping families keep active. Less physically-demanding activities such as guided walks involving wildlife, seed sowing and crafts have also been held so the project is accessible to all.

Working closely with its members, CWVA has helped set up volunteering events suitable for families to tie in with the project and its aims.

CWVA has also teamed up with The Welcome Network, a long-standing member, to tackle holiday hunger and provide healthy meals for any families taking part in events during the school holidays, helping them get some much-needed nutrition for physical activity.

20 families and 40 children, ranging from toddlers to 18-year-olds, took part in an event at Bridge Community Farm in partnership with Record LRC. Families split into different groups and got involved with a range of different activities.

A single parent of four, who was new to the area, said: “I was told about the family volunteering day by Dee, who is one of my mentors on the New Leaf project, and I’m so glad we went along as we had an amazing day.

“We made some new friends, got to work alongside a great team and, as a family, we were able to do something rewarding that will help many more people in time.

“There was a lot of things to do and even lunch was provided. It was a great opportunity to connect with others and I even found some voluntary administration work to reintroduce myself back into work life.”

One of the children, a 14-year-old boy, added: “At first, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to go as I didn’t know anyone, but I’m happy I went along as we had a great day.

“I met some new friends and I learned loads of facts about wildlife. We worked in groups and got the chance to have some cakes, sandwiches and soup.

“I was looking for work experience and I was able to do that at the farm.”

Another successful event as part of the Families Together project saw nine families join conservation volunteers planting trees and bulbs at the Countess of Chester Country Park.

Holly, a 17-year-old who took part in both events, said: “I enjoyed both, but my favourite was the tree planting day.

“I felt like I was making a difference to the environment by planting so many trees.

“It was fun and informative. I’ve now retained the knowledge on how to plant trees and have since planted my own. I’d love to get the opportunity to take part in it again.

“I also used the experience in my supportive statement for university as I want to study geography and do a job that will help us tackle climate change.”

Jess, who also got involved with the event at the Countess of Chester, added: “I found out about it from Cheshire West and Chester Council when I was looking for places to volunteer for my Duke of Edinburgh Award and it immediately caught my attention.

“It was easy to get involved and, although I used it to get my award, I really enjoyed my time and I’ll definitely be doing it again.

“It was a light atmosphere and you genuinely felt like you were having a positive impact on your community in a way that so many people would be able to take part in.

“The activities will affect our environment in a positive way and, with it being so easy to take part in, it couldn’t have been any better.

“From the days I was involved, I developed new skills I hadn’t used before and walked away feeling great about what I’d been involved in.”

If you’re a family interested in taking part in volunteering, please email: dee.gunning@chesterva.org.uk.

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