Nurturing connections, sharing stories: the value of volunteer support groups

Volunteer Libby shares her experience of one of the key parts of befriending - joining a volunteer support group.

The New Bridge Foundation - A Charity that Supports its Volunteers

Once I’d completed my two-day befriender training as a new volunteer, I joined one of the many monthly support-group meetings. Everyone is allocated to a meeting convenient for them. The meetings are in person or online, usually zoom, most commonly they offer a combination.

In addition to joining a support group there is a volunteer’s area of the New Bridge website which provides us with the policies, procedures and tons of guidance. For more immediate issues and administrative questions emails are monitored daily by the New Bridge team who work hard to support us.

The Benefits of Support Group Meetings

There are many benefits to the meetings - for me it is the supportive group. The groups are set up to ensure the safety of all parties; the volunteers, the people they befriend and of course the New Bridge Foundation itself. The meetings provide a community that does what it says on the tin… offers support!

Groups are usually of about 6 to 10 people and chaired by an experienced volunteer. Often one of the New Bridge staff will join the meeting and this provides us with additional expertise.

How New Bridge Works

As well as the monthly meetings all volunteers provide New Bridge with written updates on each person we are in touch with, the number of letters, phone calls or emails exchanged and any visits undertaken along with the costs involved (travel, postage etc) so we can claim expenses – even “nil returns” are submitted.

Anyone that has ever been involved in organisational life will know the importance of data collection and it is this information that helps the staff and trustees have an overview of the work carried out by its many volunteers. The monthly return gives me an outline for my feedback to the group meeting.

A Peek into the Monthly Support Group Meetings

I think the group is much like the befriending experience. It offers an opportunity to get to know other volunteers, people who have a whole host of personal and professional experiences, people that we wouldn’t normally perhaps get to meet, they all add interest and to the value of the group. We provide an update on each person we are in touch with; problems or worries are aired as well as the positive feedback shared. If there are concerns, then the chair and the group helps us see a way forward or perhaps normalises an aspect of prison life that seems alien to us on the outside.

Nurturing Connections, Sharing Stories

The sort of issues explored in the meetings will vary from volunteer to volunteer and of course to the people they are in touch with. We might comment on how a prison visit went or voice a concern about someone’s well-being, sadly, mental health problems are all too common. The befriending relationship is confidential so having a group of people to talk to about our experiences is an immense help. I’ve been helped enormously by the knowledge New Bridge volunteers have and share willingly with others. This, as well as the rewarding befriending relationships, form an enriching part of the life of a New Bridge volunteer.


You can find out more about volunteering with New Bridge here:


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