Optimistic in the face of a pretty bleak 2020 winter
October has been a surprisingly positive month for me, culminating with a successful video of my 26-month old daughter singing a two-verse Halloween song dressed as a witch. I forwarded it to everyone I know on WhatsApp, certain they would be equally thrilled by her adorable genius as me.
The conversations I’ve been having with people across Scotland’s voluntary sector this month have been similarly inspiring in a professional sense – Scotland’s voluntary sector has a whole bunch of flourishing young organisations full of energy and vision for a better future (see November's Third Force News magazine)
October’s Never More Needed webinar, with the Scottish Government’s minister for employment and fair work Jamie Hepburn, was also packed with organisations ready and willing to help the growing number of Scots who are now out of work. Impressively 73% were confident their organisation would be around in 12 months’ time, and 86% were ready to take on more staff immediately if funding were available. (Now all we need is the funding!)
With England entering its second lockdown, and Scotland teetering on the edge, it’s hard to remain optimistic. The celebrations that would normally get us through the bleak winter months – bonfire night, Christmas, new year – will be a shadow of their normal selves. While I like the freedom video chats give me to catch up with friends and family, personally the thought of digital Christmas parties leaves me cold.
Basking in the glimmers of optimism I see around me is vital for my mental health and physical wellbeing, and, as I constantly remind myself and others – I am one of the lucky ones. I have a job, a home, a support bubble and access to beautiful outdoor space.
Many people are facing the winter months with no job or significantly reduced income, serious money worries and feelings of loneliness and isolation. The things they depend on to keep them mentally and physically well have been stripped away – from respite care to lunch clubs to choirs and sporting activities.
The point of the Never More Needed campaign is not to protect individual voluntary organisations from closure during this difficult period, but to ensure that the people who need voluntary and community services in their lives – and I would argue that’s all of us – still have them now and in the future.
The reality is that life has changed, many voluntary organisations and services will close just as businesses are closing, and communities will not look the same when we come out the other side of this. But, the need for connection, for fun, for a helping hand through a difficult life challenge will always exist.
For those of us who have dedicated our careers or personal lives to creating a fairer world, there will be lots of work to be done and opportunity to do it. And there will be lots of new people with new idea and new ways of garnering support willing to join us.
As I cross my fingers for news of a vaccine in the spring, I am buoyed by the knowledge that there will be amazing voluntary organisations ready and willing to lend a hand to those who need it when this all ends.
In the meantime, in my household, we have less than two months to get Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer off pat – easy-peasy.
Susan Smith is SCVO’s editor of news services. Visit www.scvo.org.uk/NeverMoreNeeded to find out how you can get involved in the Never More Needed campaign.