11 July 2013
Last evening I made my second trip to the Houses of Parliament. This time, instead of visiting as a tourist, I had the privilege of being a guest at the launch of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health’s report, Improving health at home and abroad: How overseas volunteering from the NHS benefits the UK and the world. The report addresses the role of NHS staff who volunteer overseas in advancing health globally and bringing new knowledge, skills and ideas back to the UK, and what can be done to facilitate this work further. The gathering hosted around a hundred people working in the health sector, from those that have volunteered abroad to those who have expertise in sending volunteers abroad.
After shaking off my initial daze from soaking in the experience, I had the chance to reflect on the meaning of this report and how it directly impacted the people in the room. As an outsider looking in, what I found was a community of passionate people in the same line of work who have an opportunity to work together to put their work on the radar of leaders who will be able to support their continuing success in the future.
For example, Kevin Barron, MP to Rother Valley and a speaker at the event, is one such leader who has been convinced that partnerships are great for both his constituency and for communities overseas. His excitement about the report stemmed from his knowledge of the work of secondary school links in his constituency to schools in Africa.
The enthusiasm he expressed about partnerships is the enthusiasm that more MPs should have for health partnerships, specifically. The benefits of volunteering have been clearly outlined and should be passed on. Health partnerships can meet with their MPs and tell them about the amazing work their health partnerships have been able to achieve.
If this happens, I can see that the next time such an event happens, there will be a plethora of MPs lined up to proudly talk about the health partnerships within their constituencies.
As the room filled with chatter following the speeches and Q&A session, I could see that people were no doubt excited about health partnerships. People were sharing their stories with each other and making connections for future collaboration. I believe this enthusiasm can be translated into action. The report stated that health partnerships are often ‘under the radar’, but with this report, the opportunity has presented itself to put health partnerships on the radar and to make volunteering the norm, not the exception. Now it’s up to health partnerships to pave the way by sharing their stories with the wider community.
If you are reading this and have been involved in a health partnership, there are a few things you can do to contribute to the movement for creating an enabling environment for people who want to volunteer through health partnerships: write, share, and tell. Find out more ways to get involved with THET’s advocacy toolkit for health partnerships.
Join the movement. Support Volunteers. Act Now.