Meet Carmel Offord – Engagement Manager at the Independent Domestic Abuse Services.

29 April 2024
Our interview this issue is with Carmel Offord, an Engagement Manager at the Independent Domestic Abuse Services (IDAS) in York. We highlighted the work of IDAS in the last issue and their volunteer programme. Here, Carmel talks about her passion to help others including the volunteers she works with.

Please introduce yourself.

I’m Carmel Offord, a dedicated women’s rights campaigner, passionate about making a difference to the lives of all survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence. I am proud to have worked for IDAS (Independent Domestic Abuse Services) for the last 8 years. As the Engagement Manager my work includes events, engagement, communications, liaising with the media on public policy and campaigns, informing domestic abuse policy and practice locally and nationally, delivering training and webinars, research and development work in areas including volunteering, survivor voice, family courts, healthcare, and children and young people’s services. I manage a team including Volunteer Coordinators, a Community Engagement Officer, and Survivor Engagement Coordinators.

IDAS support over 10,000 people in the community across Yorkshire each year and responded to 30,950 helpline calls in 2023. IDAS are the leading specialist domestic abuse charity, also supporting people who have experienced sexual violence. In addition to emotional and practical support, IDAS provide safe, emergency accommodation.

What attracted you to the organisation and role?

IDAS have a reputation for delivering high-quality, innovative services and are courageous in their efforts to achieve transformation at a societal level to prevent domestic abuse and sexual violence, which attracted me to my role within the organisation. My role as an Engagement Manager is varied with a broad range of responsibilities, which I relish. I am privileged to work with a team of staff and volunteers who are highly skilled and dedicated to making a difference.

What would you say to anyone thinking of becoming a Volunteer Coordinator/ Manager?

Managing volunteers is a very rewarding experience. At IDAS we care about the volunteer journey and the role it can play in people’s recovery from abuse and sexual violence. We invest significant time and resource in our volunteer training and the support structures that need to be in place to ensure volunteers feel valued. We rely on the generosity of our volunteers and supporters who make a huge contribution to our vital, often life-saving work. It is incredibly rewarding to see how volunteering can empower people and even lead to paid work or other fantastic opportunities. Charities like IDAS are under immense pressure and volunteers can help our teams to meet the needs of our clients and increase our capacity and resources.

To anyone considering a role in coordinating or managing volunteers, I would say that understanding people’s motivations and ensuring that their contribution is valued is key to developing a successful volunteering service, along with robust systems and processes. IDAS Volunteer Coordinators are experts at identifying skills and matching them to appropriate roles within the organisation, it requires empathy, creativity, and tenacity. We are truly grateful to all our volunteers and supporters.

What have you learnt about yourself while in this role?

Mindset is everything. Working within the voluntary sector, in a demanding, fast-paced role, will always present challenges. How I approach these challenges and support colleagues has developed over time with the assistance of learning tools and strategies that help me manage tricky situations. I am also very lucky to learn from and work with many inspiring leaders within the sector who have imparted their knowledge and wisdom and supported me along the way. I have also learnt that it’s ok not to have all the answers and to seek help and expertise from colleagues and partner organisations to achieve the best outcomes.

Finally, please tell us something about yourself that your colleagues would be surprised to know.

I once worked for a charity running conservation expeditions overseas. We would take large groups of young volunteers to the rainforest in Belize, Borneo, Guyana, and Guatemala to assist the local community with their conservation efforts. I was lucky enough to spend weeks living in the rainforest, sleeping in a hammock, and dealing with all sorts of nasty bugs like botflies and leeches!