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OUR STORY

People have been volunteering for centuries. Back then it was mainly volunteers who could be mobilised to defend the nation if it was under threat of invasion. In Medieval times, when the Church was the sole support for the poor and those in need, it was volunteer help that mostly administered this.

 

On the Home Front during the two world wars, volunteers stepped up to do their bit as air-raid wardens, firefighters or firewatchers; or joined the Home Guard, the Women’s Land Army and the Women’s Voluntary Service, to name some organisations. In recent times it is local authorities who have been tasked with promoting and encouraging volunteering, while often handing it over to specialist organisations and charities to do this, along with related services that assist people who need some extra help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Previously, in the boroughs of Guildford and Waverley, there was the Guildford Association of Voluntary Services (GAVS), Farnham Council for Voluntary Services and the Haslemere Volunteer Bureau. An example of an additional service GAVS provided on top of giving people volunteer advice and supporting those who needed volunteers was administering the Shopmobility scheme, it provided manual and powered wheelchairs and scooters to people who experienced difficulty walking around Guildford town centre.

 

In 2008, the three volunteer bureaus were combined as Voluntary Action South West Surrey (VASWS), a registered charity, within one volunteer centre in Castle Street, Guildford. Since then its service to the communities of Guildford and Waverley has expanded greatly with a number of additional projects that have complemented its core service of volunteer help and advice.

 

With a grant from Surrey County Council in 2013, VASWS set up and ran Joining In!, a five-year project encouraging people in Guildford’s Westborough and Bellfields wards to become more involved in their communities while promoting groups and activities they could join and take park in. From this project, the Park Barn-based Rhythm of Life Community Choir and the Joining In! Men’s Group (a history / social group aimed at retired men) were formed, and both continue successfully to this day.

 

 

 

Other projects run by VASWS have included Welcome Buddies, in which volunteers gave one-to-one support to people struggling with their mental health, and Welcome to Volunteering, supporting people who wished to become more active and perhaps become volunteers themselves, but needing a helping hand to do so.

 

In March 2019, VASWS became an agent provider of the NHS’s Social Prescribing scheme, running the Guildford and Waverley Social Prescribing Service. Our Social Prescribing Link Workers help connect people to activities, groups, and services in their community to meet the practical, social and emotional needs that affect their health and wellbeing.

 

Following a sixteen-year stay at our Castle Street office, VASWS moved in February 2024 to new premises within Guildford Borough Council’s offices at Millmead, near the town centre. This was closely followed by the launch of a new project, Volunteer Connections. With funding from the National Lottery, this four-year project’s aim is to help increase the level of volunteering among small charities and voluntary organisations throughout South-West Surrey. VASWS remains the provider of the volunteer centre for Guildford and Waverley both in person and online, through Better Impact, our online volunteering platform.

volunteers stepping up to do their bit as air-raid wardens during the two world wars
Voluntary Action South West Surrey Annual Conference 2016, at Christ's College, Guildford
Big Wheel event organisated by Joining In! in 2015
Rhythm of Life Community Choir.  Photo credit: Guildford in Bloom

Image (right): the Voluntary Action South West Surrey Annual Conference 2016, at Christ's College, Guildford

Image (left): volunteers stepping up to do their bit as air-raid wardens during the two world wars

Image (left): the Big Wheel event organisated by Joining In! in 2015

Image (right): the Rhythm of Life Community Choir.

Photo credit: Guildford in Bloom

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