Do you have time to help victims of crime?

Eva MacDonald MBE is Campbeltown's sole Victim Support Scotland volunteer at the moment.
Eva MacDonald MBE is Campbeltown's sole Victim Support Scotland volunteer at the moment.

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Do you want to get a little something more out of your golden years? Or maybe you are a student seeking experience for your CV?

Victim Support Scotland (VSS), an independent charity to which Police Scotland refers victims and witnesses of crime for support, may have the perfect opportunity for you.

VSS offers a free and confidential support to people affected by crime throughout Scotland, offering emotional support, practical help and information about the criminal justice system, and victim and witness rights.

Oban-based Gary Brown is a support coordinator for the charity, meaning he is responsible for recruiting and managing volunteers, making sure they adhere to the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) membership scheme and other training, and organising their deployment in areas such as Campbeltown.

He explained that VSS has about 130 paid staff and 500 active volunteers, working from 30 offices as well as 40 courts across the country.

The roles carried out by VSS volunteers includes helping vulnerable witnesses, having the ability to put in place special measures such as erecting screens or establishing video links for those giving evidence, or going into court and standing beside people who require that support.

Volunteers can also advise on personal safety and security, and carry out home visits, if requested.

Campbeltown’s sole volunteer, Eva MacDonald MBE, has been in the role for 16 years.

Eva, 82, was a nurse for 54 years, and was recognised at the time of her retirement in 2010 as the longest serving nurse in Scotland.

Eva, who comes from a ‘strong police family’, spent 25 years on The Children’s Panel and it was when she left that role that she saw an advertisement for volunteering with VSS, which she felt would combine her nursing skills and her police and court experience.

Self-described people person, Eva said: ‘No one thinks they’ll be a victim of crime. Court can be a formidable place. I can do pre-trial visits, showing victims who sits where.

‘Sometimes it’s just being there for someone. Sometimes one phone call suffices, or people don’t need anything at all.

‘It’s not a huge task but it can be challenging on your own. I say to people that if I can do it, anyone can.’

Two years ago, when she turned 80, Eva was a director at both Argyll and Bute Advocacy and Argyll and Bute Care and Repair, as well as a volunteer for VSS, the Kintyre Crime Prevention Panel (KCPP), and at the RNLI shop.

Now, she only volunteers for VSS, the RNLI and the KCPP, giving up her directorships due to the travelling they required.

She has also volunteered for a number of other charities and groups over the years.

‘I was taught to be a good citizen and to serve your community. That’s what volunteering is about for me,’ she said. ‘I learn a lot from volunteering. My whole career was based on nursing and caring, but now I’m doing other things. I get a lot back, it’s not all giving.

‘Volunteering at the court is a fulfilling role. If you can say you’ve helped someone, that’s good. That’s my philosophy in life.’

While Eva is very competent within the role, Gary thinks it would be good to have a small bank of volunteers on which to rely.

He said: ‘Everything we do is about supporting victims of crime, if they want that support. Court only takes place one week a month in Campbeltown, and the services of volunteers may only be needed two or three mornings of that week, but it would be good to share the work between two or three people.’

He added that people from all walks of life are welcome to enquire, from retirees looking to give something back to the community, to psychology or criminology students, for example, who may want to boost their portfolio of experience.

Anyone who is interesting in finding out more can contact Gary by email at gary.brown@victimsupportsco.org.uk or by phoning 01631 565676.