Like many other charities GMCC could not function or even exist without its volunteers. We have a dedicated team who do a great job in every area. One definition of the word volunteer is “a person who does some act or enters into a transaction without being under any legal obligation to do so and without being promised any remuneration for his or her services”. Having no remuneration, however, does not mean getting nothing out of volunteering.
Volunteers are at the very heart of the Community Chaplaincy Project. Volunteering with us can be challenging but also very rewarding, and hopefully really enjoyable. It gives a chance to make a difference to someone leaving prison, your community and yourself. You will receive training relevant for your role that, where appropriate, will prepare you for working with people leaving prison. Travel expenses can be refunded and a meal provided on each day spent with us as a volunteer.
Volunteers can work in the Office, Café, IT and as Befrienders. We have those who provide Information Advice and Guidance and we also have a group who meet regularly on Thursdays at 1pm for a half hour Bible Reflection and Prayer time.
No previous experience is needed but this would require some ability in administration, dealing with finance or data input. Team work is essential and the emphasis is always on those who come to us for help rather than personal advancement. An understanding of the need for and a commitment to confidentiality is essential.
Those who work in our kitchen and café play an indispensable role in what we do. The provision of good food to customers, volunteers and clients in a friendly and welcoming manner could not be more important. Cooking, serving, setting up and cleaning all require attention to detail and providing an experience that makes people want to come back is what is needed.
We have some experienced IT specialists and others who have learned since they have been with us. They all aim to help those who want to begin to learn get started on what can be a life enhancing journey into the world of computer literacy. As a registered UK Online Centre we have members of the public who come to us with no knowledge or experience but who are soon celebrating getting their first certificate. We get referrals from Jobcentres and other agencies and have seen many arrive very nervous but leave with growing confidence having achieved things they had thought were beyond them.
Basic to what we do is the concept of getting alongside those who have made the decision that they want to make a fresh start. Being there to offer the friendship, support and encouragement we all need if we are going to make progress is both a privilege and a pleasure. This can involve writing to someone in prison, visiting them and meeting them at our centre when they are released. In this way some have been helped to quickly get back to where they want to be while for others in means a long term and valued relationship with someone they know will always listen and be there for them. There is always a need for volunteers to be available for those who come to the centre needing someone to talk to.
Helping to get benefits sorted out, make housing applications, register with a doctor or find a dentist are just some of the issues that our IAG workers deal with. The needs are as varied as the individuals but every request for help is treated with the same concern and attention to detail. Knowing where to refer for food parcels, clothing or specialist support means we can ensure no one is left without a way of beginning to address the needs that brought them to us. We are always seeking to improve and develop both the support we give in this area and those who provide it.
Bible Reflection and Prayer time
We have retained the word chaplaincy in our name as we began as a faith based initiative. At the same time we constantly stress that we offer support to people of any faith or none. The same welcome and commitment to help is given to everyone and there is no requirement to even show an interest in faith issues. Those of us who do profess faith and come from a Christian perspective meet each week on a Thursday at 1pm for half an hour. During the BRP we read a short passage from the Bible, share our thoughts on it and then pray specifically for the needs of the work and those who have come to us for help. In this way we demonstrate that our confidence is not in ourselves but in God who has promised to forgive and restore all who turn to him. Those who just come for this half hour each week are a great encouragement to us.
There are, of course, many others who support the work of GMCC without actually having registered as volunteers. We have Trustees, a management group, many who pray and give and others who make a valuable contribution by regularly supporting the café. This is one place where you can have a drink and a lovely home cooked meal in the knowledge that by doing so you are playing a part in helping others turn their lives around.
The Community Chaplaincy Project is committed to the principles of Diversity and Equal Opportunities and applies this commitment actively throughout its service provision. We have a comprehensive set of policies that includes these issues as well as Data Protection, Confidentiality and Complaints. These policies are available for anyone to read and discuss by appointment. Much of their content is incorporated in our Code of Conduct that every volunteer signs to confirm they have read, understood and agree with it.
Code of Conduct
Greater Manchester Community Chaplaincy (GMCC) has a mission to help people coming out of prison make a fresh start, avoid reoffending and rejoin the community as a positive influence. This code applies to all Trustees, employees and volunteers within the organisation. Strict observance of the code is fundamental to the activity and reputation of GMCC and it is essential that everyone understands, accepts and adheres to it. They will certify this by signing the declaration provided and anyone unable to agree to any of these principles should conclude that being part of GMCC is not for them.
The code requires that individuals:
- Always act with fairness, honesty, integrity and openness; respecting the opinions of others and treating all with equality and dignity without regard to gender, race, colour, creed, ancestry, place of origin, political beliefs, religion, marital status, disability, age or sexual orientation.
- Aim to promote the mission and objectives of GMCC in all their dealings with others and to provide a positive and valued experience for all those who contact us for help of any kind.
- Adhere to the policies and procedures of GMCC and support the decisions and directions given by those in leadership being ready to approach them and discuss any areas of concern or disagreement.
- Comply with both the letter and the spirit of any training provided seeking clarification where there is uncertainty and pointing out where it is felt there are gaps in or improvements that can be made to the training given.
- Dress in a decent and appropriate way remaining clean and tidy avoiding slogans that could be seen as offensive.
- Maintain honesty and transparency in all their financial dealings with GMCC including expenses claims and declare any outside interest that could be relevant.
- Take responsibility for their words, decisions and actions seeking speedy and effective resolution of any misunderstandings or problems with others without exceeding the authority of their position.
- Refrain from using profane, bad or strong language which will always be considered inappropriate.
- Respect and maintain the confidentiality of all information gained as a result of their involvement and seek advice from the management on any concerns this may raise.
- Avoid any conduct, comment, gesture or contact of a sexual nature that anyone may find to be unwanted or unwelcome and could therefore be perceived as sexual harassment.
- Avoid any open display of affection towards those with whom a relationship already exists.
- Due to the nature of our work and the history of many of our clients and volunteers any contact whether of a social nature or for the purpose of offering support between those involved with GMCC in any capacity will be reported by them to and discussed with the management. This includes any contact outside the programme and activities organised by GMCC.
- Be conscious of the fact that we are dealing with many people who feel vulnerable and marginalised and ensure that this is taken into consideration in all our dealings with and responses to them.
- Seek to work as part of a team and not as an individual aiming always to promote the sense of community that GMCC aims to foster.
- When unsure on any issue, ask for help. Nobody knows everything and nobody is expected to be perfect. Asking questions avoids many problems down the road and so questions are encouraged.
- When mistakes are made which will happen take responsibility for them. If anyone has been harmed or offended, listen carefully and respectfully, and work to right the wrong.
A Code of Conduct does not and cannot cover every possible situation. You can, however, test yourself on whether your behaviour is acceptable by asking the following questions.
- Would I be happy to have what I am saying or doing known to everyone?
- Does what I am saying or doing serve a purpose beyond self-interest?
- Would I like to be spoken to or treated in this way?
- Will behaving like this reflect well on me and the reputation of GMCC?
- What would GMCC be like if everyone behaved in this way?
- Have I considered how my actions affect the team and the GMCC community?
The aim of this code is that everyone at GMCC will treat one another with respect and make a valuable contribution to our mission. We may not always agree, but disagreement is no excuse for poor behaviour or poor manners. We might all experience some frustration now and then, but we cannot allow that frustration to turn into a personal attack. It's important to remember that a community where people feel uncomfortable or threatened is not a productive one. We expect the members of the GMCC community to be respectful when dealing with others within as well as with clients and people from outside projects and initiatives. When disagreements do arise we expect every effort be made with the help of the management where necessary to resolve the situation and move forward together. The important goal is not to avoid disagreements or differing views but to resolve them constructively. We expect that everyone who participates in GMCC does so with the aim of making life better for its clients and all those involved.
There is an ongoing process of volunteer recruitment through faith communities, voluntary agencies, local services, academic institutions and those who contact us having heard what we do. Volunteers will be invited for an interview to discuss the different opportunities that the organisation can offer and the skills and abilities that they can offer the service. Areas covered by the interview will include:
- The aims and objectives of the project.
• The reasons why the prospective volunteer is interested in volunteering for the project.
• The relevant experience of the prospective volunteer.
• The roles and activities of particular interest to the prospective volunteer.
• The amount of time available for volunteering and the times at which it would be possible.
• An explanation of the process of becoming a volunteer and the next step to be taken.
All prospective volunteers must complete an application form, provide two references and where the role demands it must complete a Disclosure and Barring Service check, previously known as CRB. Having a criminal record will not usually bar an applicant from volunteering with the project but where appropriate the advice of the Probation Service and the police will be sort.
In our experience volunteering benefits both the organisation and the volunteer as well as making a valuable contribution to the fresh start in life so many are desperate to make.