The world we live in has changed a lot in the past months. While we have been physically distant, communities have come together to help their most vulnerable, celebrating the fact that we are all in this together even when we are apart. From community Facebook groups to national services, it has been humbling to see so many people step up and help their neighbours, the sick, the elderly and the isolated.
When you are in a position that forces you to rely on the kindness of strangers, it is wise to be a little weary. Whether the support is in person, say delivering shopping, or over the phone to check in on your mental health, you need to know you can trust the other person to have only good intentions.
One way to do this is to only accept help from those who have formally signed up to a registered volunteer charity. These groups will have safeguards in place to protect you and also provide a reporting system should you have concerns. The Royal Voluntary Service is one such organisation. They advise their volunteers and the people they help on what to expect; simple rules like:
- Volunteers never wear uniforms (to prevent scammers making replicas)
- Volunteers always call you beforehand (so you don’t open your door to anyone you are not expecting)
- Volunteers never provide their personal contact information (everything is dealt with through official channels)
- Volunteers must always show their proof of ID (RVS has their volunteers show their photo and registration on their phone)
Rules like these, and the others that RVS has in place, are there to protect you and provide some consistent Code of Conduct across their team of volunteers. This means you can spot anything suspicious really easily and report to the proper channels.
Apart from identifying that the person you are dealing with is genuine, there are a few other things you can do to protect yourself:
- Never provide your bank details, whether over the phone or handing someone your bank card so they can do your shopping for you.
- Ask someone you know and trust to act as your chaperone when a volunteer visits you – while remaining a safe distance apart.
- Check the registered charity number to ensure whomever offers to help you is with a legitimate organisation.
- Call the charity to verify that you are on their records. This is particularly important if you think someone else, like your carer, may have referred you to the service.
- Never get into someone’s car if you do not feel safe. Check the driver’s details and make a note of the license plate number.
Volunteering is a wonderful vocation and anyone who signs up to give their time and energy to help others should be celebrated. But you should never feel as though you are being ungrateful or rude for being weary of strangers. A good volunteer will be prepared to answer your questions and alleviate your concerns. If you are ever met with a bad attitude when you ask these questions, be sure to report it.
Thank you to all our volunteers and responders; whether you are signed up to a larger organisation or simply checking in on your neighbour, remember that no act of kindness is ever too small.