In celebration of volunteers week, 1-7 June, project co-ordinator Sarah Browne reflects on how vital volunteers have been to the Speaking Out project and updates us on what took place at our recent volunteer catch-up events (besides eating lots of amazing cake that is!).
During May we organised two catch up events for volunteers who have been recording the history of Women’s Aid in Scotland as part of the Speaking Out project. Volunteers on this project are based throughout Scotland, from Inverness to the Borders, and they have been extremely busy during the last year interviewing people connected to Women’s Aid, contributing to a project film, co-curating a touring exhibition, arranging and cataloguing the archive, and much, much more. The Speaking Out project would not have been as successful without this hard work and we’d like to take the opportunity of Volunteers Week to say a huge thank you to the group of women who have volunteered their time and made this project happen.
As the co-ordinator of this project, one of the first ‘major’ tasks was to recruit volunteers from all around Scotland. I still remember the feeling of publicising the roles and then wondering what would happen if no one responded! Thank goodness they did and we were overwhelmed by the amount of positivity and interest in the project. In April and May 2016 we invited 40 volunteers to attend induction events and from that initial group volunteers attended training that reflected the role they would be undertaking. It has been hugely inspiring to watch women, who have never picked up a camcorder before, collect the camera kit and travel to a woman’s house or office and film an interview or to observe women, who were anxious about asking the ‘right’ questions, listening to responses at the same time as making sure the technology was working and it all being recorded, contact me after an interview to tell me what a rewarding and positive experience it had been.
The volunteer catch-up events held in May 2017 allowed us to reflect on the last year, to think about what has been achieved, and what lessons we can learn from the whole experience. It was great to hear women talk about what a ‘brilliant journey’ it has been and how it was ‘ great to feel part of something’ and how they had felt ‘inspired by the power of women working together.’ I know I’ve certainly been inspired by working alongside so many women who have been willing to volunteer their time, contribute ideas, and to work with others to ensure that women’s voices and stories are preserved and collected for future generations.
In fact, my first contact with Scottish Women’s Aid was over ten years ago as a volunteer for the 30th anniversary oral history pilot project. I was an oral history interviewer and I can remember feeling nervous and anxious about conducting interviews, of which I knew the historical importance, for an organisation’s project and not just for my own research. I really appreciated the opportunity to volunteer for such a fantastic organisation and for a project which recognised the expertise of Women’s Aid and everything Women’s Aid has done to support women, children and young people and in helping to transform our understanding of domestic abuse. I only hope the volunteers on the Speaking Out project feel the same.
Thank you to all the Speaking Out volunteers and to all those who have contributed to the project.