Helping children play at Derbyshire Toy Library

Posted on the 7th June 2019

I moved to Belper seven years ago. At the time I was out of work and felt that volunteering would help me get me to know the area, get to know more people and support my skills development so that I could get back into work.

At the time I was not the most confident nor outgoing person, but when I turned up at my first session to volunteer it felt like being part of a family and I found everyone to be very friendly and helpful

After that session I regularly offered to volunteer at other sessions and even cover for volunteers from time to time. This meant I got to meet and build friendships with lots of local people. I was also keen to help with the craft sessions as my background is in art and  design.

Though this volunteering opportunity I have created some truly brilliant friendships. Volunteering allows me to give back to my local community. What I love most about volunteering for Derbyshire Toy Library is knowing that I have helped provide a welcoming and supportive environment for children and families of all backgrounds so that they can engage in positive play opportunities, enjoy themselves and build lasting friendships.

I have improved many skills thanks to volunteering. For example, I can effectively communicate with people from many different backgrounds; I am more patient, understanding and empathetic and now know what it takes to run a charitable organisation.

I now work, which means I can’t volunteer at stay and play sessions. However, I have taken a more strategic volunteering role by joining the board of Trustees and being made Chair! I also continue to help support local community and fundraising events. An event close to my heart is Belper Woollen Woods where local charities and support groups pull together as a team to decorate a chosen tree with knitted objects. This year our tree will be taken from the theme of ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’. This year is the 50th Anniversary of the story.

Lavinia Smith, Volunteer, Derbyshire Toy Library

It is wonderful to see children have access to such a wide variety of toys in a way that is both affordable and good for the planet!

Lavinia Smith

Lavinia came to us as a volunteer enquiry through the Do-it website eight years ago. She supported our Toy Library Coordinator to deliver Toy Library Stay & Play Sessions aimed at local families, carers, childminders and grandparents in the local community.

Coming from a design background at university, she enjoyed developing themed crafts and activities to engage users. Lavinia was new to the area, she did not know anyone and was very nervous.

Lavinia (L), Ann-Marie (R)

Since she has been with us these have improved greatly and this led her to take on a Welcome Host role and be able to stand in and cover Play sessions in the absence of a Coordinator. She also became employed by a clothing design company in that time.

Lavinia has become an integral part of our team and is part of our committee. She helps plan and facilitate our Toy Library Kidz Zone which is part of our Belper Goes Green Eco Festival run by Transition Belper. It’s one of our main fundraisers for the year and enables us engage local families.

It is enormously important that our service is available and accessible to all and the lifeblood of this is the unsung work of all our hardworking and dedicated volunteers.

Ann-Marie McMillan

Ann-Marie manages volunteers at Derbyshire Toy Library.

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