By Tracy Harrison, CEO of Safe and Sound

The voluntary, or third sector as it is also known, is crucial to the health, wellbeing and safety of our local communities and, as the name suggests, volunteers are the backbone of such organisations.

As the head of Derbyshire’s specialist child exploitation charity, Safe and Sound, and someone who has personally volunteered for numerous charities all of my adult life – I was particularly pleased that the King’s Coronation weekend focused heavily on putting something back into local communities through the Big Help Out.

This has given extra resonance to this year’s Volunteers Week (June 1-7) which recognises the fantastic contribution that volunteers make and a chance for organisations such as ourselves to thank them for their commitment and support.

Safe and Sound is fortunate to have a team of fantastic people who give up their time voluntarily and unpaid to enable us to protect and support young people and their families whose lives are affected by child exploitation.

Our volunteers support us in a number of ways.  For example: parents of children targeted both online and in person by perpetrators have progressed to become peer mentors – supporting other families through their journey.

Our youth work and outreach teams are supported by volunteers with an array of life experience to ensure that we can reach out and engage with young people across the city and county.

We also have a wide range of professionals who provide support for the charity – taking on roles as trustees and ambassadors and also providing their expertise to us free of charge.

I however want to highlight that volunteering is also a great opportunity for individuals, and particularly young people, to gain the valuable work experience that opens doors on new and exciting job opportunities.

This is exactly the case for two university students who both came to us as volunteers and have now been appointed into full time roles.

One young person worked with our SEND case worker supporting children, young people and families with special educational needs which is vital work as these challenges greatly increase a young person’s vulnerability to grooming and exploitation. Having proved her worth as a placement student, she has now finished her degree and recently accepted a full-time role at Safe and Sound as a case worker and outreach worker.

Another young person volunteered at Safe and Sound whilst also studying at university. She supported the outreach team, was heavily involved in youth activities over the summer as well as helping to raise awareness in schools of the dangers facing young people.  She too will soon be joining the Safe and Sound team in a full-time role as a case worker and outreach worker.

Volunteering is therefore a win/win for both individuals and the organisations that benefit from their energy, commitment and enthusiasm.

With this year’s national celebration week under our belts – I appeal to individuals and to businesses to consider how they can incorporate volunteering into their working and home lives.  Their input really can make a positive difference to the lives of so many people in our local communities.