Connecting people is what The Conservation Volunteers does. Each year we bring together around 100,000 people – often amongst the most vulnerable in our society – to create and care for 1,500 green spaces at the heart of communities all over the UK. The impact of coronavirus on our work, like so many aspects of our day-to-day lives, has been significant and I would like to provide an overview of how we are responding to this unprecedented situation.
Since the outbreak began, our utmost priority has been the safety of the people our activities affect, whether they are employees, volunteers, community groups, funders, partners or the public at large.
As the situation has escalated over recent weeks we have, in line with government guidance, suspended our volunteering programmes. We know that, for many of our volunteers, our programmes provide valuable social connections and we are doing our best to stay in touch with those who are most isolated.
We have instructed the majority of our employees to work from home. Safe, good-quality green spaces remain essential to any healthy and happy community however – particularly for those with no access to a garden of their own. Some of our employees, therefore, continue to carry out essential work, such as inspections and site repairs, to keep the green spaces upon which local communities depend safe. Where there is a local need, and where it is appropriate and safe for us to do so, we are also helping with the collection and distribution of food to local communities. I’m incredibly proud of the staff and volunteers who have stepped up across our organisation and found new and inventive ways to support communities in this time of need.
A significant proportion of TCV employees have kindly agreed to go on temporary furlough and we’re extremely grateful to them for making this difficult decision. They remain an important part of the TCV team and we’ll be staying in touch regularly to provide support and keep them up to date until we can welcome them back to work.
Like most organisations, we are adapting to a rapidly changing world. While our ability to physically support people and communities to care for green spaces might be limited at the moment, we continue to connect by other means. Our website now hosts ideas and advice on staying connected with each other and with nature, whilst staying home and keeping safe. Our TCV Community Network website continues to connect, and provide information and resources to, our network of independent community groups.
Our work is only made possible by the incredible support we receive from our funders and partners, and we’re immensely grateful for the flexibility and understanding they’ve demonstrated in response to these incredibly challenging circumstances. We are working closely with everyone who supports us, to continue our work safely where we can and, in some cases, repurposing funding to provide support to communities, protect our infrastructure and increase our ability to emerge successfully from the crisis.
We are also turning our attention to what the world might look like beyond the current restrictions on movement. Although none of us know when this will be, we do know that many people will be feeling extremely isolated and inactive, and in need of a health and wellbeing boost, while many green spaces will have suffered from weeks or months of only essential management. Our work, to connect people and green spaces to deliver lasting outcomes for both, will be more important than ever. We’re thinking now about the role we will need to play, in partnership with others, to ensure we deliver the greatest impact for people and green spaces in the future.
To everyone connected with our work, and to everyone who is not, I hope you are keeping safe. And to all of those who are missing our volunteer programmes right now, I hope that we are able to resume them safely soon and I look forward to welcoming you back.