An inspirational volunteer for Children's Hospices Across Scotland - better known as CHAS - has been crowned Volunteer of the Year 2018 at the Hospice UK Awards, held at the Telford International Centre, Shropshire Tuesday, 27 November.
Now in their eighth year, these sector-leading awards recognise the huge contribution that both individuals and innovative programmes have made to hospice and palliative care in local communities across the UK.
Douglas Cameron, an IT and Activities volunteer at Rachel House Children's Hospice in Kinross, has been instrumental in transforming volunteer communications at CHAS through identifying and implementing the Workplace by Facebook platform, enabling the charity to reach, engage and retain more volunteers to support children and families across Scotland.
As one of the first charities in the world to adopt Workplace for volunteers, the communications tool has consequently united CHAS' network of more than 900 volunteers and created a collaborative community where people can easily find important information and resources. From those raising money in remote areas of the Scottish Highlands, to the care volunteers and therapists powering two hospices on opposite sides of the country.
Douglas was also recognised for developing a user-friendly chat bot, named CHASbot, which he programmed to answer frequently asked questions from volunteers. This has generated significant levels of interest from other charities across the UK keen to learn how they can develop the technology for themselves.
Since its rollout, CHAS has delivered two webinars to over 50 organisations across the country and has been invited by Facebook to contribute blogs and deliver presentations to showcase how CHAS' volunteer communications have been transformed through Douglas's innovative thinking.
Douglas said: "I am a very proud advocate of CHAS and it is very humbling to represent all the good that so many people do. Volunteering gives me a tremendous sense of worth, CHAS staff add to that by always making me feel valued, so winning the award is a very unexpected additional recognition."
"I've had a working knowledge of CHAS from back when I managed a Social Work team, and since then the CHAS collection box has been my go-to for donations. Over the last ten years I've moved further away from frontline child services, migrating towards what I do now, managing IT for SCRA (the Scottish Children's Reporter Adminstration).
"As much as I enjoy technology, it can be very impersonal and I miss the human aspects of my earlier career. My teenage daughter was still at school and had ambitions of being a paediatrician, so as something to do together and knowing CHAS would either make or break those ambitions, we signed up together to volunteer two years ago. My initial experience of CHAS was and mainly still is Sunday mornings at Rachel House fixing the technology and getting involved in activities. It's actually the most fun and relaxing thing I do in a week, it's generally a joy."
Douglas's advice for any aspiring volunteers is simple: "In a nutshell volunteering is good for you! It doesn't take much to find a bit of time, particularly if you have a skill or hobby that you enjoy anyway. There are so many ways to contribute, offer up your time for crafts, driving, gardening, things you might do fairly thanklessly in your day job or at home in daily life, could contribute a lot of value to a charitable cause. You might be surprised at how little you have to move out of your comfort zone to make a difference and get a lot back."
Morven MacLean, Volunteering Development Manager for CHAS, said: "We are thrilled to see Douglas recognised for his efforts in this way. The unsung heroes are often those in the background, innovating and developing infrastructure to enable organisations like CHAS to grow and reach even more children in Scotland who need our services.
"Douglas represents the modern volunteer - someone who came to us with a unique skill set that we have put to good use, enabling him to make a real and meaningful impact on the organisation. His innovation and creativity have enabled us to scale up volunteering and future-proof the organisation.
"New volunteers expect their volunteer communications, like every other aspect of their life, to be digital, instant and easy. By revolutionising our communications and introducing Workplace and bots to CHAS, Douglas has ensured the sustainability of our volunteering programme, enhanced the experience of our current volunteer force and propelled CHAS in to the forefront of volunteering innovation, as recognised by organisations the length and breadth of the UK."
In Scotland, more than 15,000 children and young people live with life-shortening conditions and CHAS is determined to reach every family who needs its services. CHAS works across Scotland, able to provides its hospice services nation-wide for babies, children and young people with life-shortening conditions., CHAS offers palliative, respite and end-of-life care from Rachel House in Kinross and Robin House in Balloch.
The CHAS at Home service supports families with the services of a hospice yet in their own homes across the whole of Scotland. Through its Diana Children's Nurses working in hospitals across the country we support families and clinical teams.