Volunteering beyond the riots

This has been a difficult week in London. No one can possibly condone the violence that has erupted or the damage that has been done or the heart that has been ripped out of so many communities.

BUT there are positives to come out of it and mostly around volunteering - I hope this government takes note. It has been a very powerful message to see volunteers motivated by an incident in their community to take action and make a difference. To sustain this over time we will need organisations like TimeBank to help people find the right opportunity and support them into making changes in their community long term. Clearing our streets is fantastic, keeping them clear, inspiring and supporting our young people in a meaningful way, providing the facilities they need, that is what will get to the heart of the issues we have seen, and that is why we need organisations like TimeBank to help make it happen. Just take a look at Junction49 our youth-led website to see what young people are already doing together to make their communities better with support from our helpdesk and each other.

In my own community in Walthamstow, a respite centre set up and run entirely by volunteers, has been up and running all week for community workers, police and other emergency services to have a cup of tea and some food in a comfortable safe environment as they work 24 hours a day to restore and then keep calm in our borough. This has been supported and tweeted tirelessly by our local MP Stella Creasy who has kept everyone informed about what is happening, where and advising calm when rumours of non-existent riots start doing the rounds – and she invited Mr Cameron to see it for himself yesterday!

Last night I walked home to see volunteers from the local residents association clearing flowerbeds in time for the village in bloom judging (!), stopping only to chat to the extra police who were patrolling our streets – and this is less than half a mile away from the shops that were looted and fires that were started. This is not what the news channels show of the East End but it’s why I live here and it’s why I’m proud of how our communities have risen to the challenge of the last week and why I am determined to ensure organisations like TimeBank continue to support volunteers when everything calms down.