Community Health Champions | Tel: 01782 683030 | [email protected]

Spotlight on Zi, CHC Volunteer Co-ordinator

“I value what volunteers do. To be able to help them along their journey, train them, motivate them, find them appropriate roles or activities, that’s my passion."

Zi Khumalo

Zi is Volunteer Co-ordinator for VAST’s new project – the Community Health Champions. The project is working with community volunteers, and its mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of people in Stoke-on-Trent.

Currently, the Community Health Champions project is focusing on the impacts of Covid-19. The coronavirus pandemic continues to affect us all, even as lockdown restrictions ease. It’s just as important as ever that we all understand how to protect each other from the virus, and to know what help is available.

The volunteer Champions’ role will be to help share clear health messages, especially with the city’s harder to reach communities.

The project is now actively looking for volunteers to join the Community Health Champions team, and Zi is looking forward to working with them.

“I love working with volunteers, that has been my passion for quite a number of years now. I enjoy working with people with a lot to give,” said Zi. “I find that a lot of people don’t quite realise just how important their volunteering is.”

Volunteering has seen a surge during the pandemic, as people have stepped up to the mark to help others through the crisis. The contribution that volunteers continue to make to the recovery of their communities and neighbourhoods is incredible.

Zi, too, is keen to add her support as the city’s communities work towards recovery from the impacts of Covid-19. She has a wealth of experience to share.

“I think when we went into the first lockdown in 2020, I felt strongly that I needed to do something directly linked to Covid-19. As time has gone on, I think I realised just how much is needed in the community, if we are to come out of this in a better way. Continuing my work in the voluntary sector was a big deciding factor for me applying for this role,” said Zi.

Zi will now be leading a team of volunteers, all working together to share health messages and resources with their own communities, neighbours, and even work colleagues.

“The Champions’ biggest role is around helping the community understand what is involved in their health and wellbeing. There’s a lot of messages that come down from government, and sometimes it feels as though it is not meant for us because it’s not written in the language that we use. It doesn’t mention our locality. So it’s quite easy for that information to be dismissed. The role of the Champions is to communicate information at a very local level, in a way that people are most likely to receive it.

“Listening to somebody who speaks like you, telling you about something that is going to be helpful for you, that makes you more likely to take notice, because actually, yeah, that does apply to me, because my neighbour’s talking about it, or that that lady down the road is talking about it,” said Zi.

Who will make a good Community Health Champion?

Zi answered: “I think first and foremost, they’ve got to be very friendly. Their role will involve approaching people known to them. I think they have to be able to communicate to their local community. They don’t need to sound like a government minister, they need to sound like somebody who lives in the local community. They’ve got to be enthusiastic about empowering people. And they’ve got to be caring and supportive. They’ve got to be willing to listen, and able to signpost people to the right places, that’s a major part of what they’ll be doing.”

Community Health Champions are going to make a huge difference to the people they care about, and they’ll be supported with a whole host of training opportunities and resources, every step of the way.

“There’s a lot of support we’ll be giving, and a lot of training around how we can become the best Champion that we can be. So, I would say give it a go, don’t be frightened,” said Zi.

“Yes, COVID-19 is a very big thing, and health and wellbeing is a very big thing. The more we know about what affects us in life, the better we are in making the right decisions that affect our health.

“The Champion’s role is an important role but it’s not frightening at all. It could just be talking to family saying ‘I know you’re worried about this and this is the information that can help you’.

“You could share things on social media. You could be walking up and down the High Street putting posters in windows. There’s many different ways of being a Champion.”

Zi and the team are keen to hear from potential Community Health Champion volunteers who have a little time to spare.

“It’s going to be exciting,” said Zi. “I believe as volunteers, and as members of staff that work out in the community, we get out of these roles as much as we put in, maybe more. I think it’s going to be quite fulfilling because no two days will ever be the same.”