The first week of June is National Volunteers Week. Each year we celebrate it with a social gathering to say thank you to our amazing team of volunteers who work on the retail and animal side of things at the branch. In the past we’ve had afternoon teas, a garden party and last year we had our first picnic in the park. I really enjoyed last year’s event and I look back on it fondly. There were around 25 people sitting on camp chairs and park benches nursing umbrellas, as we sat sharing home cooked food and arguing over a quiz in the pouring rain. For me it epitomised the spirit of our branch, that no matter happens what we pull together and get the job done! Little did we know that 12 months later the world would look a whole lot different.

This year we honoured the animal rehoming volunteers who have supported us throughout lockdown by nominating them for a certificate from the Lord Mayor of Manchester and one from the CEO of the national RSPCA. It somehow seemed massively inadequate, especially after such an incredibly tough week that exhausted everyone due to the sheer volume of rabbits in our care and cats and kittens with health problems. It’s even harder because of reduced staffing but our ever-supportive volunteers have been making a massive difference coming in and doing extra shifts, staying longer, emergency fostering and doing animal deliveries. Some foster homes have barely had a 24 hour turn-around between residents, such is the demand for space at the moment. The inspectorate tell me their workload has hugely increased and they are attending more and more ‘complaints’, most likely only just coming to light with the ease of lockdown.

In total we have 26 kittens in our care and over half of them have dietary issues. We have a similar amount of baby rabbits. Whether of the feline or lagomorph variety of kitten the sheer volume of poop and mess they create means a whole lot of hard work for the staff, which takes its toll. You can donate to the animals in our care here! So I decided to email the Chief Inspectors in the North West to tell them what a fantastic job the team had been doing since March, and how we had helped the inspectorate and the animals they had rescued. One even shared my email with the Regional Superintendent, who sent a lovely reply the same day.

Just some of our baby bunnies!

From the Regional Superintendent:

“One of the team forwarded your recent update to me and it makes for impressive reading, I also dipped into and was most impressed with your blog.

For what it is worth Susie,  I just wished to offer my own thanks to you and all at Manchester & Salford Branch for the tremendous support given to Inspectorate colleagues over the last months, this is greatly appreciated.”

From Greater Manchester Chief Inspector:

“Your team are amazing and so are you! Thanks so much for everything you and your team are doing, Susie! You’ve been an absolute Godsend for the officers out on the road! Please pass on my thanks to your team of superstars.”

From Merseyside Chief Inspector:

“Thanks for all the excellent work you and your team are doing, I hear only good things. I am a strong advocate of fostering in the way that you do it and can see it being adopted across more of the RSPCA in the future.”

From Cheshire Chief Inspector:

“Thanks for your email and continued support. It’s good to hear how well you’re doing and nice to know that the extra capacity is there if we need it.

Keep up the good work and please pass on my appreciation to your team.”

I am so immensely proud of what the team achieves each week and feel it is only right to recognise their hard work alongside National Volunteer’s Week too.

Shirley & Bassey – they were snapped up and found a new home together!

Unfortunately our retail team remains furloughed for another month, if not longer. After conducting a risk assessment for our Chorlton shop, the largest of all 5 of our shops, I was left with the harsh reality that it was not profitable to reopen and keep our staff safe at the same time. The implementation and management of social distancing in the shop along with adhering to the government guidelines set out for charity retail meant we could not manage to break even, let alone raise much needed funds. I spent several days wrestling with what to do and came to the reluctant (and quite frankly depressing) conclusion that we could not reopen yet. The problem is only compounded the smaller the premises are, so we remain without income from our shops for at least another month, if not more. I think the retail staff are largely relieved, and who can blame them.

Despite their absence the retail team is still very much with us in spirit. Unbeknown to me they had a whip round this week and through my door on Sunday landed £200 for us to buy veggies for the rabbits, guinea pigs and rats in our care. What an amazing bunch of people. Sadly that money won’t last very long due to the exceptional number of little furry mouths we have to feed fresh greens to twice a day, but it is nonetheless hugely appreciated and it means we can spoil them with exciting things like herbs and cavolo nero! If you’d like to buy a chew toy or hay for our bunnies you can via our Wishlist here!

Over the course of the week 10 cats/kittens were admitted and 7 baby rabbits were unexpectedly born to Cordelia just two days after admission. It was a bit of a shock and honestly the last thing we needed! We know the following week will be bringing us juvenile mice, guinea pigs, more rabbits, more cats and more kittens. One pending new resident is a cat found by a member of the public with his left hind leg just swinging loose (ouch!). He is currently at the National RSPCA hospital having his fracture assessed.

So we ended National Volunteers Week as we started: grateful, overwhelmed and braced for more hard work with over 120 animals in our care.