The Unicorn Preservation Society has thrown their ‘wholehearted’ support behind UK Charity Week, and on Volunteers Day the charity wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to their army of volunteers at HMS Unicorn, without whom they say they wouldn’t be able to function.
HMS Unicorn, one of the world’s oldest ships, is a national treasure. Docked in Dundee, they have the pleasure and privilege of working with over 50 volunteers on board the ship. They are instrumental in the daily functioning of the ship as a popular tourist attraction and museum.
The charity’s Wavemakers volunteering programme has been recognised nationally for making a difference in the lives of the community in Dundee, with an award shortlisting in the Best Small Museum project category for the Museums Change Lives awards.
Launched in the summer of 2021, and building on years of working with other charities and third-sector organisations to offer volunteering and training opportunities at HMS Unicorn, Wavemakers was about realigning the charity’s volunteers programme to better fit with their vision and mission: to deliver a world-class museum experience, work continuously to safeguard the future of HMS Unicorn and care for their collections whilst making them accessible to all, and inspiring those who visit and work with them, offering lifelong learning and engagement opportunities for local communities and beyond.
There are three core principles of Wavemakers, which aim to put their volunteers first in their engagement with ourselves as a charity. These are: partnerships allow them to do better work with more people; put interpersonal relationships first – volunteers work with people not with heritage; volunteers they say are not ‘ours’ – if they move on to better things the charity believes they have done their job.
Compared to similar museum programmes, the volunteers are very young – more than half are under the age of 25. Over two-thirds of current volunteers self-identify as having a disability and almost half reside in the 20% lowest-ranked areas of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation areas. Many of the volunteers face barriers to work, education and engagement.
The Wavemakers programme aims to provide a stepping stone for our volunteers, equipping them with confidence, skills, and experience to move on to either further education or paid work. Feedback from those who have been part of the programme and its charitable partners is overwhelmingly positive.
Courtney joined the museum as a volunteer in July 2021. She told Charity Today:
“During my time at the Unicorn. I have never felt so welcome and included. The team are always willing to take the time to help you improve your skills whether that be public speaking, learning a little admin or just general tasks on how to maintain the Unicorn. Volunteering at the Unicorn was the best decision I’ve ever made.
“It’s improved my confidence massively, my mental health has been so much better. It really gives me a reason to leave the house and I always look forward to coming on board. Overall, I am super grateful to everyone on board for making me feel like I can achieve what I want to do and inspiring me to have the confidence to want to apply to University at last!”
Tony, who joined the team in February 2022 as a volunteer before being hired as a member of staff in July, added:
“I started volunteering to help my own personal journey after a long period of physical and mental health issues. Great members of staff have taught me a lot and supported me through my journey at my own pace. I never expected to be offered a job at HMS Unicorn. This has been a positive boost to my mental and physical health. It shows I am capable of doing more than I thought, while hopefully making some new friends for life who I enjoy working with and have helped save me from being forgotten in society.”