• Author: Miriam Leighton

    Midlothian Volunteers’ Week Awards – Nominations Open NEXT WEEK!

    Volunteer Midlothian is thrilled to announce that the nominations for this year’s Volunteers’ Week Awards will be opening next Monday after an unplanned hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. The 2021 awards are shaping up to be extra special because they will celebrate volunteering activity from both before and during the pandemic. 

    Categories for nomination will include: Outstanding New Volunteer, Befriender/Mentor of the Year, Active Volunteering, Health and Wellbeing, Dedicated Service to Volunteering, Volunteer Manager of the Year and the Saltire Summit Award.

    A brand-new category has also been introduced for 2021 to acknowledge the community-led volunteering that has occurred in response to Covid-19. This category will be open to nominations from members of the public who want to recognise and reward local volunteers that have ‘gone the extra mile’ over the last 12 months. We can’t wait to see the nominations flying in! They are open for a three-week period until the end of March, so spread the word and get your thinking caps on as to who you might want to put forward for an award. 

    More info about the awards can be found on our Volunteers’ Week FAQ’s page. The link for the nominations form will be activated on Monday 8th June at 12 p.m. We will also be releasing a video guide to the awards next week, so look out for that as well.


    Volunteer Midlothian receives funding boost from Befriending Networks

    We are really pleased to share the news that Volunteer Midlothian recently received some funding from Befriending Networks to help boost the number of volunteers who take part in our various befriending projects.

    Volunteer Midlothian has several befriending projects: ‘Transform’, an intergenerational befriending project, ‘Connect’, which aims to reduce social isolation among members of the older population in Midlothian and also ‘Connect Online’, which matches a learner with a volunteer who can support them with digital skills.  

    Befriending Networks logo

    As well as recruiting new volunteers, the funding will also be used to pilot new volunteer opportunities, with a new focus on the creation of online groups to be facilitated by volunteers with particular interests and expertise. This could include for example a music group or a craft group. Volunteers will receive training in group facilitation and online safeguarding, as well as the use of digital technology, widening their skills and knowledge around how to support and include people by using different methods of engagement. The online groups will be open to people in Midlothian who would benefit from having more social connectivity. At the moment all activity is online, though in future we hope some of the groups may be able to happen ‘face to face’.

    Keep an eye out for further updates when the project is fully underway – we’ll be looking for more volunteers and clients, so get in touch with Naomi if you are interested in finding out more. Also, a very big thank you to Befriending Networks for helping to make these new developments possible.

    Connect with Burns in 2021!

    Rabbie Burns – Scotland’s National Bard

    Three very talented volunteers from Volunteer Midlothian made our online Burns celebration this week an especially enjoyable evening for all involved. They joined staff and volunteers from our Connect and Connect Online projects to celebrate Scotland’s favourite national poet and share some of their own thoughts on being Scottish.

    Raj created an homage to Scotland in the form of his videos ‘Our Adopted Land’ and ‘Rabbie Burns – My Take on the Bard’, which are also available on You Tube.  We played some snippets of both, before having fun describing our favourite Scottish words (such as ‘scunnered’) and favourite Scottish places. Midlothian of course got a few mentions. A short quiz on Burns and Scotland followed, so we all learned something new. Anyone know what ‘Partan Bree’ is? 

    Mary treated us to a passionate recital of Tam O’ Shanter with edited highlights. “Weel done Cutty Sark!” Bruce then entertained us with Scottish and Burns songs including ‘Caledonia’ and of course ‘Auld Lang Syne’ to close the event. 

    Many thanks to our brilliant volunteers who contributed and attended. If you’re interested in getting involved with the Connect project, or Connect Online, contact Naomi Knights, our befriending co-ordinator.

    Videos: Scotland and Burns

    Saltire criteria update

    You may recall that at the start of the pandemic Saltire allowed young people to claim informal volunteering hours until August 2021. This arrangement still applies until the end of March 2021. Up to 100 hours of informal volunteering can be accredited.

    If you know a young person who has been doing any informal volunteering (e.g. walking a neighbour’s dog whilst they are shielding, or food shopping for an elderly person) please encourage them to add these hours to their Saltire account or go to the Saltire Awards website to register and claim the hours for certification.

    Saltire Awards are great to have on a CV when looking for employment and are also an excellent way for young people to demonstrate their contribution and help others!

    Youth Arts Small Grants Fund now open for applications

    Midlothian Voluntary Action are proud to be working in partnership with local social enterprise Made in Midlothian on a project that will support freelance artists to work with children and young people in Midlothian.

    Funded by Creative Scotland’s Youth Arts Small Grants Scheme, the programme will provide small grants to artists to work with groups of children and young people in Midlothian who have been most adversely affected by the Covid 19 pandemic. Local MSP, Colin Beattie, has congratulated Made in Midlothian on their success, in a motion to the Scottish Parliament. 

    The small grant fund is now open for applications and applications close on 1 March 2021.  See Made in Midlothian’s website for more information.

    “This funding will support Made in Midlothian to empower freelance arts practitioners to deliver activity across the community, and bring meaningful creative experiences to children and young people, whose well-being has been so severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    Colin Bradie, Interim Head of Creative Learning, Creative Scotland

    Volunteer Midlothian and Health in Mind team up to offer mental health training in January

    Hello and happy new year to you all from Volunteer Midlothian! Also not so happy, since we have entered another full lockdown across the UK, but we can only make the best of it and try to be kind to each other in the coming weeks and months.

    There is an ongoing need to support the mental wellbeing of third sector staff and volunteers at this time, so we are confident that the provision of three special training sessions later on in January from Volunteer Midlothian and Health in Mind will be welcomed. The sessions have been organised as part of the mental health and volunteering grants project, hosted by Volunteer Midlothian and launched during lockdown 2020. Our development worker Natalie, and also Lisa Hodkinson from Health in Mind, have worked hard to roll this provision out in the last month of funding for the project.

    During the staff session there will be an emphasis on maintaining wellbeing at work (including work from home). For volunteers, the focus will be more general, looking at self care and support to stay well in times of stress or additional challenges. Sessions will be short and easy to access. We are sure you will agree that now is the time to encourage people to pause and take a moment to reflect on how best they can support their own mental wellbeing, and that of others around them, as we move through another lockdown and try to deal with the longer term uncertainty of the pandemic.

    We’d appreciate it if you could promote the sessions widely around your networks and encourage others to sign up. For more information check out the two poster links below, or contact Natalie from Volunteer Midlothian.

    Info about staff sessions.

    Info about volunteer sessions.

    Covid can’t stop Randori Judo!

    Randori’s new judo centre in Dalkeith

    Just a couple of years ago, Mark Taylor walked into our office in Dalkeith with a dream: to start a social enterprise that would share the physical, emotional and social benefits of judo with children, young people and adults across Midlothian. He founded Randori Social Enterprises in 2018, running clubs and classes in schools around Midlothian.

    In the spring of 2020, facing all of the uncertainty that the pandemic brought, Mark took the brave decision to sign the lease on an industrial unit at Hardengreen Business Park. During the lockdown period, the Randori team worked relentlessly, galvanising the support of their members, local businesses and the wider community to fully refurbish and kit out their brand new dojo, complete with sprung floors, mats, mirrors and much more.

    SEAM worked alongside Firstport and Midlothian Business Gateway to ensure that Randori had the business support they needed and were able to make the most of available funding opportunities. The new Randori dojo is now up and running. It is an amazing space and an inspiring example of social entrepreneurship in Midlothian. Locate in Midlothian recently featured this article about Randori. You can also follow what Randori is up to on Facebook.

    Brexit’s not long away. Is your organisation prepared?

    With all the discussions about Covid-19 in recent months, it is easy to forget that we will still be leaving the EU on 31 December 2020. There will be guaranteed changes from January 1st for businesses as we start our new relationship with the EU. There are many actions you can take today to prepare. Third sector organisations are being urged to: 

    It is worth doing one or more of these things now, as Brexit (the real thing) will be upon us very soon!

    SEAM and MVA are having a clear out

    A lot has changed since the pandemic happened, and it’s certainly been a very challenging time for many organisations, especially not being able to get into our work places very easily.

    This picture of Rebecca was taken before lockdown, but we are actually still in the process of sorting out our office and meeting room on White Hart Street in Dalkeith. We are hoping that when life can return to ‘normal’, the TSI premises will be a safe, warm and supportive space for local third sector organisations to come for a one to one session, some training, or even just a general catch up to say hello and tell us how it’s been during lockdown.

    We look forward to seeing you once our space is sorted out and the regulations allow it. In the meantime – see you on Teams or Zoom!

    Winter driving skills for staff and volunteers

    Cars and lorries on a snowy motorway.

    Lothian 4×4 Drivers are offering winter driving skills training for staff and volunteers, aimed at helping them to be safer and more confident driving in winter conditions. In the past, participants in the sessions have given them a unanimous thumbs up, being educational and entertaining too – and certainly contributing to the safety and confidence of local drivers during the winter months.

    This opportunity is a great one to include in your winter planning and preparation. It will be an online session, for obvious reasons. If you are interested in this for your staff and/or volunteers but wouldn’t have 10 people available to participate, get in touch and we’ll try to group more than one organisation together. 

    Community and Third Sector Recovery Programme opens

    The Community and Third Sector Recovery Programme is a £25m Scottish Government funded programme aiming to support charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations that are supporting people and communities through the shift from lockdown to recovery. As well as providing ongoing crisis support, the fund will enable changes that will help organisations to adapt and thrive in a very different social and economic climate. The programme has two main strands: 

    This stream aims to support organisational change. It offers tailored support and funding to develop a plan so that third sector organisations can operate sustainably post-pandemic. 

    This stream supports the delivery of services in communities that were suspended or reduced because of COVID-19, or the creation of services that tackle new challenges presented by the pandemic. 

    You can apply now

    Both strands are now open. The two funds are based around an integrated system so, if required, a request can be made to both programmes using a single application form. 

    Retirement of George Wilson, manager of MVA

    We are sad (but happy for George!) to share the news that George Wilson, Manager of MVA, retired at the end of September.  George has worked in Midlothian since 1994. He initially managed Woodburn Action Group, which then merged with MVA in 1998.  He has been with us ever since. 

    His calm and supportive manner has been appreciated by everyone in the sector, and we can’t put into words how much everyone at Midlothian TSI will miss him.  His leaving collection raised over £400, and we were able to buy him a very nice bottle of Islay Malt. We hope you enjoy it George – but definitely don’t drink it all at once!

    Core Skills in Volunteer Management goes digital

    Core Skills in Volunteer Management is normally a four-day long course run for volunteer managers and coordinators by Volunteer Edinburgh. CSVM provides a comprehensive introduction to volunteer management in all its varied forms.

    We can say from experience that the course content is both informative and challenging. Facilitators are also highly skilled and critically aware of best practice and other topical issues in the field of volunteering. We recommend that anyone involved in volunteer management considers doing some if not all of CSVM, which has recently gone digital – for obvious reasons. At present there are two 7 hour courses available, each running over a period of two weeks. Courses include virtual contact with other volunteer managers and the trainer, as well as coursework and the use of online forums. 

    There is a small fee for each course, but it would be money will spent and would help to ensure that organisations are fully up to speed with the implications of working with volunteers in the current context.

    For more information contact javier.tejera@volunteeredinburgh.org.uk or go to  Volunteer Edinburgh’s training and event webpage.